IAU Symposium 256
The Magellanic System: Stars, Gas, and Galaxies
28 July - 1 August 2008            Keele University (UK)

Outreach: Surveys
A planetary nebulaThere are several ongoing surveys of planetary nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds. Planetary nebulae are shells or rings of gas and plasma formed by some large stars at the end of their lives. The stars are very hot, but very small. Most of the carbon and oxygen in the universe is thought to have come originally from planetary nebulae. Planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets, and are named because they look like giant planets. Planetary nebulae are always expanding.

The main advantage of studying planetary nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds, rather than in other parts of the universe, is that we know how far away the Magellanic Clouds are. This lets astronomers measure the size of planetary nebulae more easily than if their distances were not known. Also, there are low amounts of metal in the Magellanic Clouds, and the Magellanic Clouds are the only way to study stars towards the ends of their lives in an environment which contains so little metal. 

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