play a ‘soccer ball’ in nebula

Monday, July 25th 2011. | Science News

A distant nebula dubbed the “Soccer Ball” may help astronomers understand such phenomena, created by the death throes of stars, U.S. researchers say. Scientists announced the existence of the planetary nebula named Kronberger 61, discovered by an amateur astronomer, at a symposium Monday in Tenerife, Spain, SPACE.com reported.

Astronomers say the round planetary nebula resembles a soccer ball in deep space and could give clues about such nebulae, like how their formation may be shaped by companions like stars or alien planets. More than 3,000 planetary nebulae have been observed in our region of the Milky Way galaxy. “Explaining the puffs left behind when medium-size stars like our sun expel their last breaths is a source of heated debate among astronomers, especially the part that companions might play,” Orsola De Marco of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, said.

Planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets but got their name from their superficial resemblance to giant planets when they were first observed from Earth through early primitive telescopes. “Planetary nebulae present a profound mystery,” De Marco said. “Some recent theories suggest that planetary nebulae form only in close binary or even planetary systems.

“On the other hand, the conventional textbook explanation is that most stars, even solo stars like our sun, will meet this fate. That might just be too simple.”

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