A single pointing, near-infrared image obtained with Gemini South’s GeMS/GSAOI of the planetary nebula NGC 2346.
Planetary nebulae are the gaseous remnants of low- and intermediate-mass stars. Evolved planetary nebulae, such as NGC 2346 (shown here), contain a variety of complex and poorly understood filamentary and clumpy structures. Principal Investigator Letizia Stanghellini of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and colleagues utilized the high-resolution capability of GeMS to detect these features at scales that would reveal the physical processes leading to their formation. “From the observation point of view,” Stanghellini said, “such an analysis is possible only with the resolution afforded by GeMS/GSAOI. The data will enable us to explore the nature and evolution of planetary nebulae microstructure, and to study the molecular formation and destruction processes in great detail. This will greatly advance our understanding of chemical recycling in our galaxy and other stellar systems.”