Astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe a set of stellar winds around aging stars and present an explanation for the mesmerizing shapes of planetary nebulae. Contrary to common consensus, the team found that stellar winds are not spherical but have a form similar to that of planetary nebulae. The team concludes that interaction with an accompanying star or exoplanet shapes both the stellar winds and planetary nebulae. The findings were published in Science.
This image gallery of stellar winds around cool ageing stars shows a variety of morphologies, including disks, cones, and spirals. The blue color represents material that is coming towards you; red is material that is moving away from you. Credit: L. Decin, ESO/ALMA