What is 'Dragon's Egg' Nebula?

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What is 'Dragon's Egg' Nebula? Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is a Nebula?
  • What is the Dragon’s Egg Nebula?
  • Unique Features of the NGC 6164/6165
  • Significance of the Dragon’s Egg Nebula - A Window to Our Universe

Why in News?

  • The nebula NGC 6164/6165, also known as the Dragon’s Egg, a cloud of gas and dust surrounding a pair of stars called HD 148937, have presented a puzzle to astronomers.

What is a Nebula?

  • A nebula is a huge, expansive cloud of gas and dust that is found throughout the universe.
  • This celestial formation comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours, each with its own unique characteristics and story to tell.
  • At its core, a nebula consists primarily of hydrogen and helium, the two most abundant elements in the universe.
    • These gases intermingle with traces of heavier elements, such as carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which were forged in the hearts of ancient stars.
  • A nebula serves as the birthplace of stars.
    • Within this cosmic cloud, gravity works tirelessly to pull the gas and dust together, slowly compressing the material into increasingly dense clumps.
    • As these clumps grow in mass and density, their cores begin to heat up, eventually reaching temperatures high enough to ignite nuclear fusion.
    • At this point, a new star is born, illuminating the surrounding nebula with its intense radiation.
  • A nebula plays a crucial role in the life cycle of stars and galaxies.
    • As stars form within this cosmic cloud, they gradually deplete the surrounding gas and dust, using it as fuel for their nuclear reactions.
    • Over millions or billions of years, the most massive stars explode as supernovae.

What is the Dragon’s Egg Nebula?

  • The Dragon’s Egg Nebula formed as a result of the intense stellar winds emanating from a massive, hot central star.
  • NGC 6164/6165 consists of two distinct regions: NGC 6164, which represents the brighter, more compact area surrounding the central star, and NGC 6165, which extends outward in a series of complex filaments and bubbles.
  • These two regions work together to create the nebula’s overall shape, which resembles a dragon’s egg - hence its popular name.
  • The best views of NGC 6164/6165 come from powerful telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope or the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

Unique Features of the NGC 6164/6165

  • These two stars - gravitationally bound to each other in what is called a binary system - are located in our Milky Way galaxy about 3,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Norma.
    • A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).
  • One of them has a magnetic field (as does our sun), while its companion does not.
  • The magnetic star is about 30 times more massive than the sun. Its remaining companion is about 26.5 times more massive than the sun.
  • They orbit at a distance from each other varying from seven to 60 times the distance between Earth and the sun.

Significance of the Dragon’s Egg Nebula - A Window to Our Universe

  • The Dragon’s Egg Nebula serves as a reminder of the vastness and wonder of the universe. It represents just one of countless cosmic marvels waiting to be discovered and understood.
  • As astronomers continue to study NGC 6164/6165 and other celestial objects, they unlock the secrets of the cosmos and expand our understanding of the fundamental processes that shape the universe.

Through the lens of the Dragon’s Egg Nebula, one can catch a glimpse of the intricate dance between stars, gas, and dust that plays out on a grand scale.

Q.1. What is the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)?

The HST was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation. It was not the first space telescope, but it is one of the largest and most versatile, renowned as a vital research tool and as a public relations boon for astronomy.

Q.2. What is a supernova?

A supernova is a powerful and luminous explosion of a star. A supernova occurs during the last evolutionary stages of a massive star, or when a white dwarf is triggered into runaway nuclear fusion.