The researchers suggest that not one but two stars may be responsible for the nebula. If one of the pair is losing material, the gravity of both stars may pull the matter into a dense disk surrounding both of them. This would force matter and radiation to escape from the system from the poles of this disk, explaining why the nebula is shaped like two cones whose tips are touching. The yellow-orange lines that appear to band the cones close to the center of the image may be the result of a particularly strong but brief outburst from the star that is shedding material. The outbursts may expel matter into space like smoke rings.
Of special interest are the faintly discernible comb-like fringes at the outer edge of each cone. Structures such as this are rarely seen in nebulae. The high degree of regularity in this case may point to the intriguing possibility that these bands are shadows cast by periodic ripples or waves on the surface of an inner disk close to the star at the heart of the system.
Solution to the mystery of supernova 1987A?
Related categories• NEBULAE AND STAR CLUSTERS
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