Hubble space telescope imaging of the binary nucleus of the planetary nebula EGB 6

James Liebert, Howard E. Bond, P. Dufour, Robin Ciardullo, Michael G. Meakes, Alvio Renzini, A. Gianninas

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Abstract

EGB 6 is an ancient, low-surface-brightness planetary nebula. The central star, also cataloged as PG 0950+139, is a very hot DAOZ white dwarf (WD) with an apparent M dwarf companion, unresolved from the ground but detected initially through excesses in the JHK bands. Its kinematics indicates membership in the Galactic disk population. Inside of EGB 6 is an extremely dense emission knot - completely unexpected since significant mass loss from the WD should have ceased ∼105 yr ago. The electron density of the compact nebula is very high (2.2 × 106 cm-3), as indicated by collisional de-excitation of forbidden emission lines. Hubble Space Telescope imaging and grism spectroscopy are reported here. These resolve the WD and apparent dM companion - at a separation of 0''166, or a projected 96-45 +204AU at the estimated distance 576+1224-271of pc (using the V magnitude). Much to our surprise, we found that the compact emission nebula is superposed on the dM companion, far from the photoionizing radiation of the WD. Moreover, a striking mid-infrared excess has recently been reported in the Spitzer/IRAC and MIPS bands, best fit with two dust shells. The derived ratio LIR/LWD = 2.7 × 10-4 is the largest yet found for any WD or planetary nucleus. The compact nebula has maintained its high density for over three decades. We discuss two possible explanations for the origin and confinement of the compact nebula, neither of which is completely satisfactory. This leaves the genesis and confinement of the compact nebula an astrophysical puzzle, yet similar examples appear in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number32
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume769
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - May 20 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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