HST Observations of the Guitar Nebula

Since its discovery at Palomar in 1992, the Guitar Nebula has been observed twice with the Hubble Space Telescope. Read more about the Nebula, and see some pretty pictures, here.

Results from comparing the HST observations in December 1994 and December 2001 are shown below. Both images are at a wavelength of 656 nm, and have been enhanced ("prettified") by suppressing the noise. (All pixels within 2 sigma of the mean have been replaced by the sky background.)

The head of the Guitar Nebula, imaged with the HST Planetary Camera in 1994 and 2001.

The head of the Guitar Nebula, 1994 vs 2001

Above: Animated version (loops till you hit Stop);
Below left: Dec 1994; Below right: Dec 2001.

The head of the Guitar Nebula, 1994 The head of the Guitar Nebula, 2001

Note the brightening of the head where it narrows, as we would expect if the neutron star was encountering a region of increased density. Also note the widening of the nebula as the shock propagates through the interstellar medium over time, and the possible existence of a reverse shock which appears to confine the head of the nebula.

Read more about the Nebula here, or look at the sequence of images from Palomar Observatory.

Shami Chatterjee
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Last modified: 18 Feb 2002
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