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Astronomers discover new planetary nebula

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Kronberger 61 showing the ionized shell of expelled gas resembling a soccer ball. Photo by Gemini Observatory.

WASHINGTON (PTI): Astronomers claim to have discovered a new planetary nebula -- an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen gas, helium gas and other ionised gases.

While observing at Kitt Peak National Observatory's telescope, a team at Macquarie University confirmed that the object known as Kn 61 was a planetary nebula, as suspected.

There are roughly 3,000 planetary nebulae known in the Milky Way Galaxy and surveys continue to find more.

The team behind this discovery is hopeful that with a larger sample this information along with Kepler telescope's extraordinary precision could offer answers to some long- contested questions, such as how planetary nebulae produce their fantastic shapes.

"With a sufficient sample of planetary nebulae, Kepler could help us understand these objects and may even put to rest the 30-year-old debate about the origin of these nebulae," said Orsola De Marco, who led the team.

Professor Travis Rector from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, has captured a beautiful image of the newly confirmed planetary nebula using the 8.1-m Gemini Telescope.

Appearing as a lovely blue bubble, the picture also includes a bright star and spiral galaxy.

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