UW News

Bruce Balick

January 12, 2023

How did the Butterfly Nebula get its wings? It’s complicated

Something is amiss in the Butterfly Nebula. When a team led by astronomers at the University of Washington compared two exposures of this planetary nebula that had been taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009 and 2020, they saw dramatic changes in the material within its “wings.” As the team will report on Jan. 12 at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, powerful winds are apparently driving complex alterations of material within the Butterfly Nebula, behavior not seen in planetary nebulae to date. The researchers want to understand how such activity is possible from what should be a “sputtering, largely moribund star with no remaining fuel.”

December 8, 2022

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope shows how several stars ‘stirred up’ the Southern Ring Nebula

In a study published Dec. 8 in Nature Astronomy, an international research team, led by Orsola De Marco of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, analyzed 10 highly detailed exposures taken by the JWST of the Southern Ring Nebula. Their calculations show the central star that ejected the expanding nebula gas was originally three times the mass of the sun, and that unseen companions shaped the nebula’s intricate features.

December 3, 2020

Leaving so soon? Unusual planetary nebula fades mere decades after it arrived

An image of the Stingray Nebula taken in 2016 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

The tiny Stingray Nebula unexpectedly appeared in the 1980s is by far the youngest planetary nebula in our sky. But a team of astronomers recently analyzed a more recent image of the nebula, taken in 2016 by Hubble, and found that it has faded significantly and changed shape over the course of just 20 years. If dimming continues at current rates, in 20 or 30 years the Stingray Nebula will be barely perceptible.

August 18, 2017

‘Be sure to look around you’: Tips on Seattle eclipse viewing

A fingernail-like edge of the sun will be visible in Seattle during the solar eclipse.

With many in Seattle are wondering what the Aug. 21 solar eclipse will be like in our city, Bruce Balick, UW professor emeritus of astronomy, shared a few thoughts.