The Ant Nebula, formally known as Menzel 3, is a planetary nebula in the constellation of Norma some 3,000 light years from Earth. Recently, a mysterious laser emission has been registered in Ant Nebula and it seems to originate from a dying star in a binary system.
One of the most striking bipolar nebulae, this Nebula is made up of a bright nucleus and at least four different matter flows which have been identified as a pair of bright bipolar lobes, two highly collimated opposite flows in the shape of a column, a conical system with a radial structure, and a faint radial flow in the shape of a ring.
Some researchers believe that the Ant Nebula houses a binary system at its center. A second possibility is that the rotation of a dying star has caused its intense magnetic field to coil up in a complex way and charged winds with speeds of 1,000 km/s, similar to the solar wind but much denser, may have followed twisted field lines on their way out.
The mysterious laser emission in the center of the Ant Nebula is caused by a dying star within a binary system
Recently, ESA’s Herschel space observatory has uncovered a mysterious laser emission that hints at a double star system embedded in the heart of the Ant Nebula. The very rare event recorded by ESA is associated with the death of a star which has been pinpointed by a team of scientists directed by the University of Manchester.
When stars similar to our Sun dies, they eject their outermost gas and dust sheets into outer space, casting a kaleidoscope of complex patterns called a planetary nebula. Our Sun is supposed to form a planetary nebula eventually.
“Such an emission has only been identified in a handful of objects before and it is a happy coincidence that we detected the type of emission Menzel suggested in one of the planetary nebulae he discovered,” explained the scientists.
The mysterious laser emission requires very thick gas in the vicinity of the star at the center of Ant Nebula, a phenomenon that, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t occur as current hypothesis say that the area surrounding a dying star is empty of any gas and dust. However, this could’ve only been explained by the presence of a second star. Thus, scientists were able to prove the initial theories of Menzel, promulgated about 100 years ago.