N
E
B
U
L
A
E

Return

Approximately 3,800 lightyears away, in the constellation Scorpius, the Butterfly Nebula is classified as a bipolar planetary nebula. It is perhaps the most complex planetary nebula observed to date. Spectroscopic observations have revealed that the super-heated gases comprising its ‘wings’ are expanding outwards at a rate of 600,000 miles per hour. At the nebula’s centre, a dense band of dust and gas conceals a white dwarf star (one of the hottest stars in the galaxy), with a surface temperature of 200,000 Kelvin (400,000ºF). Since the thick dust surrounding the star absorbs most of its light, including its ultraviolet radiation, the existence of the star was unknown until 2009, when astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide-Field Camera 3 were able to detect it. The Butterfly Nebula has been listed under the catalogue references NGC 6302, and Caldwell 69.

Next

Butterfly Nebula, NGC 6302