NGC 7027 is one of the brightest and most studied planetary nebulae. The nebula is just 2900 light years from earth, and is just under 0.25 light years in actual physical size. The temperature of NGC 7027's central 16th magnitude star is pumping out the energy of 6000 suns, and at 185,000 Kelvin, the star is one of the hottest known to date.
This planetary nebula is one of the youngest known with its current age estimated to be nearly 600 years old, and is currently in a short phase of planetary nebula evolution in which molecules in its envelope are being dissociated into their component atoms, and the atoms are being ionized. Using NASA's SOFIA telescope with its two arrays in FORCAST, NGC 7027 was imaged at 6.4, 6.6, 11.1, 19.7, 24.2, 33.6, and 37.1 microns.
The data will allow us to gain deeper insight into the complex structure of this very young planetary nebula, and will help us better understand the evolutionary path taken by other stars as well as the future path of our own Sun.
Oil City High School, Oil City, Pennsylvania