Overview: Butterfly Nebula

of "Lithograph: Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302)"
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Lithograph: Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302) (PDF)
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This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a planetary nebula, the glowing remains of a dying star that was about five times the mass of the Sun. The glowing gas is the star’s outer layers, expelled about 2,200 years ago. The “butterfly” stretches for more than two light-years, which is about half the distance from the Sun to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. Included is an inquiry-based classroom activity.
Format(s) available: PDF
Grades: 11-12, but the material can be adapted for use in other grades at the teacher's discretion
How to use it in the classroom

Teachers can use Lithograph: Butterfly Nebula (NGC 6302) as:

An example of a dying star. Use the inquiry-based classroom activity, "In Search of … Stellar Death," which is included with the PDF lithograph.

An engagement tool in an inquiry-based lesson. Have students study the images on the lithograph. Ask them to write down as many questions as possible about the features visible in the images. The students’ questions can be used in a variety of ways. Here are a few suggestions.

• Ask students to find the answers to their questions by reading the back of the lithograph and/or the related materials listed below.

• Have students exchange papers so that each student has someone else's questions. Then have them find the answers to those questions by reading the back of the lithograph and/or the related materials listed below.

• Ask for volunteers to read the questions as someone records them on the blackboard or on an overhead transparency sheet. Ask students to raise their hands if they have the same question or something similar. Count the number of raised hands and record the total next to the question. Once all the students’ questions have been added to the list, ask them to search for the answers to their questions in the text on the back of the lithograph. When they have completed that task, ask them to decide if each of their questions was answered completely, answered partially, or not answered at all. Go through the original list and place an "A" in front of those questions that were answered completely, a "P" for those that were partially answered, and an "N" for those that were not answered at all. Determine if the most commonly asked questions were also answered completely. Encourage students to do further research to find answers to the unanswered questions.

A content reading tool. Have students read the back of the lithograph and write a quiz for the class.

Related materials

HubbleSite press release: “Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe”

HubbleSite press release: “The Glorious End of Stellar Life”

HubbleSite press release: “Hubble's Planetary Nebula Gallery”

HubbleSite press release: “The Colorful Demise of a Sun-like Star”

See the Stars and stellar evolution section on "Teaching tools" page.

Overview: Butterfly Nebula