Cover image for Cosmic butterflies : the colorful mysteries of planetary nebulae
Cosmic butterflies : the colorful mysteries of planetary nebulae
Kwok, S. (Sun)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
ix, 179 pages : color illustrations ; 27 cm
Subject Term:
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QB855.5 .K957 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Using more than 100 spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Cosmic Butterflies explores the beauty of the most mysterious celestial objects in space, planetary nebulae. The mystery begins at the end of the star's life, when it wraps itself in a cocoon by spilling out gas and dust. Sometime later, a butterfly-like nebula emerges from the cocoon and develops into a planetary nebula. These newly formed, effervescent structures are complemented by a kaleidoscope of colors emitted by glowing gases. Hovering in the gossamer of delicate streamers, the production of planetary nebula by a star is both its most momentous event and foretells its doom when its central energy runs out. In this extraordinary book, Sun Kwok, a leading international expert on planetary nebulae, details the discovery process of the creation of planetary nebulae and of the future of the Earth's Sun. Sun Kwok is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Calgary and a Canada Council Killam Fellow. His book The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae (Cambridge, 2000) is widely considered to be the definitive treatise on the subject. He serves as chairman of the Planetary Nebulae Working Group of the International Astronomical Union and has been a member of the Advisory Panel of the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics since 1993.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

One might think that the subject of planetary nebulae is so specialized as to be of little general interest. However, as Kwok (Univ. of Calgary) shows in this well-written and beautifully illustrated book, they are an important stage in the life of most stars whose mass is a bit greater than that of the sun. As such a star evolves, it consumes first the hydrogen and then the helium in its core, and begins to expand. Soon it loses matter from its outer atmosphere in a "wind." Finally, as Kwok himself discovered, a second, interacting wind appears, creating the beautiful shell-like structures called planetary nebulae. Because of the winds, these objects contribute dust and molecules to the matter lying between the stars of the Milky Way. Indeed, they may be the stuff of life, since the gas that formed the solar system, and ultimately humans, was rich in heavy elements. The book describes each star in this evolution, as well as some historical background and instrumental techniques, at a level suitable for general readers. The illustrations are numerous, recent, and well produced, and hence the book will undoubtedly be used as a reference by professionals. General readers; lower-division undergraduates; faculty. D. E. Hogg National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
1 Planetary nebulae--the last hurrah in the life of a starp. 1
2 The shapes and colors of planetary nebulaep. 13
3 How do planetary nebulae shine?p. 21
4 The young and the oldp. 27
5 Where do planetary nebulae come from and what will they become?p. 35
6 The end of a star's life: white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole?p. 39
7 What is the source of power?p. 43
8 Star dustp. 49
9 Gone with the windp. 55
10 Not with a bang but a whimperp. 59
11 A morphological menageriep. 77
12 Butterflies in the skyp. 93
13 The missing linkp. 101
14 Stellar metamorphosisp. 109
15 Unsolved mysteriesp. 119
16 How many are there?p. 135
17 Measuring the size and mass of the Universe with planetary nebulaep. 143
18 Old stars as molecular factoriesp. 149
19 Do we owe our lives to planetary nebulae?p. 155
20 Glossaryp. 161
21 Some commonly observed planetary nebulaep. 167
22 Further readingp. 169
23 Notes on imagesp. 171
Indexp. 175