Double Helix nebula
|Double Helix nebula|
|Type of object||Diffuse nebula|
|Distance from Earth||25,000 ly|
The Double Helix nebula, not to be confused with the Helix nebula, is a diffuse nebula known for its double helix structure, similar to DNA. The nebula is situated 300 light years from the centre of the galaxy. It is 80 light years long and the two columns of gas and dust perform 1.25 full turns. The nebula has been observed in the infrared by the Spitzer Space Telescope due to the obscuring effects of intervening dust.
The nebula's unique structure is thought to be the result of a "torsional Alfven wave" and strong magnetic fields near the centre of the Mily Way. These fields are thought to be on the order of 1,000 stronger where the Double Helix nebula is found than where our own Solar System is situated. Large numbers of red giant stars can be found in this region of space.
- Scientists Report an Odd Twist Near Milky Way Center from nasa.gov
- Morris, M., Uchida, K. and Do, T. (2006). A magnetic torsional wave near the Galactic Centre traced by a ‘double helix’ nebula. Nature, 440(7082), pp.308-310. arXiv:astro-ph/0512452
- Cosmic 'DNA': Double Helix Spotted in Space from space.com