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June 3, 2008 10:40 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2008-21

White Dwarf Lost in Planetary Nebula

An American Astronomical Society Meeting Release

June 3, 2008: Call it the case of the missing dwarf. A team of stellar astronomers is engaged in an interstellar CSI (crime scene investigation). They have two suspects, traces of assault and battery, but no corpse. The southern planetary nebula SuWt 2 is the scene of the crime, some 6,500 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Centaurus. SuWt 2 consists of a bright, nearly edge-on glowing ring of gas. Faint lobes extend perpendicularly to the ring, giving the faintest parts of the nebula an hourglass shape. These glowing ejecta are suspected to have been energized by a star that has now burned out and collapsed to a white dwarf. But the white dwarf is nowhere to be found. This color image was taken on Jan. 31, 1995 at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. These results are being presented today at the 212th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis, Mo.

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Science Credit: NASA, ESA, NOAO, ESO, NRF, H. Bond and K. Exter (STScI/AURA)

Image Credit: NASA, NOAO, H. Bond and K. Exter (STScI/AURA)