Hubble Space Telescope imaging of HD 44179, the red rectangle

Martin Cohen, Hans Van Winckel, Howard E. Bond, T. R. Gull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


We present Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and deep ground-based images of the Red Rectangle (RR), a bipolar proto-planetary nebula associated with the post-AGB binary system HD 44179. The high-resolution HSTimages reveal complex new structures, many of them unique to this object. The RR nebula is dominated by a discontinuous "bicone," whose bright, sharp linear edges give the nebula an overall X-shaped appearance. The edges of the bicone are connected by a remarkable series of linear features elongated perpendicular to the radius vector, giving the object a ladder-like structure. The "rungs" of the ladder structure show a quasi-periodic spacing, suggesting that they have arisen from discrete episodes of mass loss from the central star, separated by a few hundred years. The total timescale over which mass has been shed into the visible nebula is of order 14,000 yr. Outside the X-shaped bicone, parabolas curl inward, resembling wineglasses, which terminate on the bicone edges in large, limb-brightened vortices. The central object is bisected by a dark band, indicating that the star is not seen directly but is instead obscured by a surrounding opaque dust disk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2362-2377
Number of pages16
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number4 1780
StatePublished - Apr 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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