Red Spider Nebula

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Red Spider Nebula
Emission nebula
Planetary nebula
Bipolar planetary nebula NGC 6537.jpg
Bipolar planetary nebula NGC 6537 taken with the New Technology Telescope at La Silla Observatory.[1]
Observation data: J2000.0 epoch
Right ascension18h 05m 13.1s
Declination-19° 50′ 34.9″
Distance~5000[2] ly
Apparent magnitude (V)13
Apparent dimensions (V)1.5 arcmin
Physical characteristics
Radius1.1 ly
Absolute magnitude (V)-
Notable featureshot white dwarf
DesignationsNGC 6537
See also: Lists of nebulae

The Red Spider Nebula (also catalogued as NGC 6537) is a planetary nebula located near the heart of the Milky Way, in the northwest of [3] the constellation Sagittarius.[4] The nebula has a prominent two-lobed shape, possibly due to a binary companion or magnetic fields and has an S-shaped symmetry of the lobes – the lobes opposite each other appear similar. This is believed to be due to the presence of a companion to the central white dwarf. However, the gas walls of the two lobed structures are not at all smooth, but rather are rippled in a complex way.[3]

The central white dwarf, the remaining compact core of the original star, produces a powerful and hot (≈10,000 K) wind blowing with a speed of 300 kilometers per second, which has generated waves 100 billion kilometres high. The waves are generated by supersonic shocks formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. Atoms caught in the shocks radiate a visible light.[5] These winds are what give this nebula its unique 'spider' shape and also contribute to the expansion of the nebula.[6]

The star at the center of the Red Spider Nebula is surrounded by a dust shell making its exact properties hard to determine. Its surface temperature is probably 150,000–250,000 K,[2] although a temperature of 340,000 K or even 500,000 K is not ruled out, making it among the hottest white dwarf stars known.

The Red Spider Nebula lies near the constellation of Sagittarius. Its distance has been variously estimated as 1,900 light-years[6][7] or, more likely, 3,000–8,000 light-years.[2]


  1. ^ "Bizarre Alignment of Planetary Nebulae". ESO Press Release. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Matsuura, M. (October 2005). "The symmetric dust shell and the central star of the bipolar planetary nebula NGC 6537". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 363 (2): 628–640. arXiv:astro-ph/0507641. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2005.09464.x.
  3. ^ a b "The Red Spider Nebula, a planetary nebula in Sagittarius". 2012-10-15.
  4. ^ Nemiroff, R.; Bonnell, J., eds. (29 October 2012). "The Red Spider Planetary Nebula". Astronomy Picture of the Day. NASA. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Red Spider Nebula".
  6. ^ a b "Red Spider Nebula (NGC 6537)". Encyclopedia of Science, The Worlds of David Darling. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  7. ^ "The Red Spider Nebula: Surfing in Sagittarius - not for the faint-hearted!". ESA/Hubble Space Telescope. 24 July 2001. Archived from the original on 31 August 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
The Red Spider Nebula imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope

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