Red Rectangle Nebula

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Not to be confused with Red Square Nebula.
Red Rectangle Nebula
Reflection nebula
Protoplanetary nebula
Redrectangle hst full.jpg
Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2 image of the Red Rectangle Nebula
Observation data: J2000 epoch
Right ascension 06h 19m 58.2160s[1]
Declination −10° 38′ 14.691″[1]
Distance 2.3 ± 0.3[2]ly   (710 ± 100 pc)
Apparent magnitude (V) 9.02[1]
Constellation Monoceros

HD 44179,[1]

RAFGL 915[1]
See also: Lists of nebulae

The Red Rectangle Nebula, so called because of its red color and unique rectangular shape, is a protoplanetary nebula in the Monoceros constellation. Also known as HD 44179, the nebula was discovered in 1973 during a rocket flight associated with the AFCRL Infrared Sky Survey called Hi Star. The binary system at the center of the nebula was first discovered by Robert Grant Aitken in 1915.


High-resolution images of it in visible and near infrared light reveal a highly symmetric, compact bipolar nebula with X-shaped spikes which imply anisotropic dispersion of the circumstellar material. The central binary system is completely obscured, providing no direct light.[2][3]

The Red Rectangle is known to be particularly rich in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).[4][5][6] The presence of such carbon-bearing macromolecules in the X-shaped nebular component, while the equatorial regions are known to contain silicate-rich (O-bearing) dust grains, was interpreted as due to a change of the O/C abundance ratio of the primary star during its late evolution.[7] However, PAHs could also be formed as a result of the development of a central photondissociation region, a region in which a very active chemistry appears due to dissociation of stable molecules by the UV emission of the central stellar system. The Red Rectangle was the first nebula around an evolved star in which an equatorial disk in rotation was well identified (the existence of such disks has been demonstrated only in a few of these objects, only expansion is observed in most of them).[8] However, the disk absorbs the stellar light and is practically not seen in the beautiful optical image, which mainly represents a relatively diffuse outflow that is very probably formed of material extracted from the denser disk.[9] The distinct rungs suggest several episodes of increased ejection rate.

The Red Rectangle is a proto-planetary nebula

The Hubble Space Telescope has revealed a wealth of new features in the Red Rectangle that cannot be seen by ground-based telescopes looking through Earth's turbulent atmosphere. The origins of many of the features in this dying star, in particular its X-shaped image, still remain hidden or even outright mysterious. The presence of a conspicuous bipolar symmetry is usual in protoplanetary and planetary nebulae. Theorists, like Noam Soker, Vincent Icke, Adam Frank, and others, have shown that this axial symmetry can appear as a result of shocks due to interaction of different phases of the stellar winds (characteristic of the late stellar evolution), but its origin is still debated.[10] On the other hand, the X-like shape and the low velocity of the outflowing gas in the Red Rectangle are peculiar, probably because its origin (associated to a stable, extended disk) is different than for most protoplanetary nebulae.


  1. ^ a b c d e Results for Red Rectangle, SIMBAD, Centre de données astronomiques de Strasbourg, January 7, 2007 
  2. ^ a b Men'shchikov, A. B.; Schertl, D.; Tuthill, P. G.; Weigelt, G.; et al. (2002), "Properties of the close binary and circumbinary torus of the Red Rectangle", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 393: 867–885, arXiv:astro-ph/0206189free to read, Bibcode:2002A&A...393..867M, doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20020859 
  3. ^ Britt, Robert Roy (April 6, 2007). "Mystery of Red Space Glow Solved". Retrieved April 29, 2016. 
  4. ^ Cohen, M.; Anderson, C. M.; Coyne, G. V.; et al. (Feb 1975). "The peculiar object HD 44179, 'The red rectangle'". Astrophysical Journal. 196: 179. Bibcode:1975ApJ...196..179C. doi:10.1086/153403. 
  5. ^ Russell, R. W.; Soifer, B, T.; Willner, S. P. (Mar 1978). "The infrared spectra of CRL 618 and HD 44179". Astrophysical Journal. 196: 179. 
  6. ^ Miyata, T.; KatazaH.; Okamoto, Y. K., H.; Okamoto, Y. K.; et al. (Feb 2004). "Sub-arcsecond imaging and spectroscopic observations of the Red Rectangle in the N-band". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 415: 179. Bibcode:2004A&A...415..179M. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20034601. 
  7. ^ Waters, L. B. F. M.; Cami, J.; de Jong, T.; et al. (Feb 1998). "An oxygen-rich dust disk surrounding an evolved star in the Red Rectangle". Nature. 391: 868. Bibcode:1998Natur.391..868W. doi:10.1038/36052. 
  8. ^ Bujarrabal, V.; Castro-Carrizo,, A.; Alcolea, J.; Neri, R. (Oct 2005). "The orbiting gas disk in the Red Rectangle". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 441: 1031. Bibcode:2005A&A...441.1031B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20053118. 
  9. ^ Bujarrabal, V.; Castro-Carrizo, A.; Alcolea, J. (Sep 2013). et al.. "ALMA observations of the Red Rectangle, a preliminary analysis". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 557: L11. arXiv:1307.5959free to read. Bibcode:2013A&A...557L..11B. doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201322232. 
  10. ^ Balick, Bruce; Frank, Adam (2002). "Shapes and Shaping of Planetary Nebulae". Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics. 40: 439. Bibcode:2002ARA&A..40..439B. doi:10.1146/annurev.astro.40.060401.093849. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: Sky map 06h 19m 58.2160s, −10° 38′ 14.691″