Exhaled by a dying star, the newly-discovered planetary nebula, Kronberger 61, is named for its finder: Austrian Matthias Kronberger, member of the amateur astronomy group Deep Sky Hunters.
Kronberger found the luminous bubble by searching a section of sky near the northern constellation Cygnus with Digitized Sky Survey data. This sliver of the sky is also covered by Kepler, NASA’s space telescope charged with finding habitable planets.
Curious about the role of nearby stars and planets in shaping the elaborate forms seen in many nebulae, professional astronomers have teamed with amateurs to scan this region.
A new planetary nebula is a rare and valuable find. Without amateur help the discovery “would probably not have been made before the end of the Kepler mission,” said George Jacoby, a Kepler astronomer who requested the help of Deep Sky Hunters, in a press release.
Gas in the image above has been emitted by the small, blue-tinted star in its center. Jacoby will now lead a follow-up investigation of the star to determine if it’s part of a binary system.
Image: Gemini Observatory/AURA