Planetary Nebula NGC3132

This beautiful image of the planetary nebula NGC 3132 was taken during commissioning of UKIRT's Fabry-Perot interferometer with UFTI. The Fabry-Perot (FP) effectively acts as a very narrow-band filter and thus allows one to image emission from specific atoms or molecules at discreet wavelengths without transmitting too much 'continuum' radiation. In these data, the FP was tuned to the wavelengths of molecular hydrogen (colour-coded red) and atomic hydrogen (coloured green). An image at a continuum wavelength (blue) completes the colour picture, so that stars (which emit at all wavelengths observed) appear white.

The image above clearly reveals a molecular shell inflated by a wind from the central, dying star. The (red) molecular shell surrounds a bubble of ionised hydrogen (coloured green). Our own star, the sun, will eventually evolve in a similar fashion, though thankfully this shouldn't happen for a few billion years...!

Credit: Chris Davis (JAC)