Finally, the 'Planet' in Planetary Nebulae?
March 10, 2008
Astronomers at the University of Rochester, home to one of the world’s largest groups of planetary nebulae specialists, have announced that low-mass stars and possibly even super-Jupiter-sized planets may be responsible for creating some of the most breathtaking objects in the sky.
The news is ironic because the name "planetary" nebula has always been a misnomer. When these objects were discovered 300 years ago, astronomers couldn't tell what they were and named them for their resemblance to the planet Uranus. But as early as the mid-19th century, astronomers realized these objects are really great clouds of dust emitted by dying stars.
Now, Rochester researchers have found that planets or low-mass stars orbiting these aged stars may indeed be pivotal to the creation of the nebulae's fantastic appearance.