The Influence of Central Star Binarity on the Morphologies of Planetary Nebulae

  • David Jones

Student thesis: Phd


Central star binarity is often invoked as the main driver behind the shaping of aspherical planetary nebulae, however observational support for this hypothesis is lacking. This work presented in this thesis attempts to observationally test this theory by investigating the relationship between central star binarity and nebular morphology for several planetary nebulae. The discovery of six new binary central star systems is also reported.A detailed spatio-kinematical analysis of Abell 41 was performed, showing the nebula to have a bipolar morphology waisted by a toroidal structure, the symmetry axis of which is found to be perpendicular to the plane of the central binary. This alignment is exactly as predicted, indicating that the central binary, MT Ser, has played a significant role in shaping Abell 41. This is only the second planetary nebulae to have had this link, between binary and nebular inclination, explicitly shown.A spatio-kinematic model has been developed for ETHOS 1, indicating that its spectacular polar outflows are kinematically older than the central region of the nebula. This finding is discussed in the context of binary evolution, and it is concluded that the polar outflows in these nebulae are probably formed before their central binaries have entered the common-envelope phase. The central star of ETHOS 1 has yet to be the subject of detailed study, and as such, the orientation of the nebula could not be compared to that of its central binary.A spatio-kinematical analysis of SuWt 2 is presented, proving that the nebular ring is in fact at the waist of a much larger, extended bipolar structure. SuWt 2 is not known to contain a post-main sequence central star, required to eject and ionise the nebular shell, but rather a double A-type binary. The results of the analysis are discussed with relation to possible formation scenarios for SuWt 2. It is concluded that, while neither component of the double A-type binary could be the nebular progenitor, the presence of a third component to the system, which would have been the progenitor, cannot be ruled out. However, as there is no evidence that the central star of SuWt 2 is a binary alone, it is suggested that SuWt 2 should be removed from future lists of planetary nebulae known to host a binary central star.A sample of sixteen central stars of planetary nebulae, displaying morphological traits believed to be typical of central star binarity, were monitored for signs of periodic photometric variability associated with binarity. Six new photometrically variable close-binary stars were discovered, representing a ∼15% increase on the previously known figure. The binary detection success rate from this investigation is compared to that of other surveys, and it is concluded that, while the results are promising, a more rigorous test is required to fully assess the extent to which specific morphological traits can be used as indicators of central star binarity.
Date of Award1 Aug 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMyfanwy Lloyd (Supervisor) & Timothy O'Brien (Supervisor)


  • Planetary nebulae
  • Post-common-envelope binary stars

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