Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 12:38 EDT
Planetary nebula NGC 2346
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Planetary nebula NGC 2346

October 22, 2013
A single-pointing, near-infrared image of the planetary nebula NGC 2346, obtained with the Gemini South Telescope's Gemini Multi-conjugate Adaptive Optics System (GeMS)/Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI). Planetary nebulae are the gaseous remnants of low- and intermediate-mass stars. Evolved planetary nebulae, such as NGC 2346, contain a variety of complex and poorly understood filamentary and clumpy structures. Principal investigator Letizia Stanghellini of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and colleagues utilized the high-resolution capability of GeMS to detect these features at scales that would reveal the physical processes leading to their formation. "From the observation point of view," Stanghellini says, "such an analysis is possible only with the resolution afforded by GeMS/GSAOI. The data will enable us to explore the nature and evolution of planetary nebulae microstructure, and to study the molecular formation and destruction processes in great detail. This will greatly advance our understanding of chemical recycling in our galaxy and other stellar systems." [Technical Data: This image, made from H2(2-1), Brackett gamma and H2(1-0) filters, was assigned the colors blue, green and red, respectively. The field of view is 1.4 x 1.4 arcminutes and is oriented with north to the left. The total (integrated) exposure time was 70 minutes cumulative for all filters. Image data from Letizia Stanghellini, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, Ariz. Color composite image by Travis Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage.] Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA