Classification of planetary nebulae by their departure from axisymmetry

Noam Soker*, Ron Hadar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We propose a scheme to classify planetary nebulae (PNe) according to their departure from axisymmetric structure. We consider only departure along and near the equatorial plane, i.e. between the two sides perpendicular to the symmetry axis of the nebula. We consider six types of departure from axisymmetry: (1) PNe where the central star is not at the centre of the nebula; (2) PNe having one side brighter than the other; (3) PNe having unequal size or shape of the two sides; (4) PNe where the symmetry axis is bent, e.g. the two lobes in a bipolar PN are bent toward the same side; (5) PNe where the main departure from axisymmetry is in the outer regions, e.g. an outer arc; and (6) PNe that show no departure from axisymmetry, i.e. any departure, if it exists, is on scales smaller than the scale of blobs, filaments and other irregularities in the nebula. PNe that possess more than one type of departure are classified by the most prominent type. We discuss the connection between departure types and the physical mechanisms that may cause them, mainly resulting from the influence of a stellar binary companion. We find that ∼50 per cent of all PNe in the analysed sample possess large-scale departure from axisymmetry. This number is larger than that expected from the influence of binary companions, namely ∼25-30 per cent. We argue that this discrepancy comes from many PNe where the departure from axisymmetry, mainly unequal size, shape or intensity, results from the presence of long-lived and large (hot or cool) spots on the surface of their asymptotic giant branch progenitors. Such spots locally enhance the mass-loss rate, leading to a departure from axisymmetry, mainly near the equator, in the descendent PN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-735
Number of pages5
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 11 Apr 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Binaries: general
  • ISM: general
  • Planetary nebulae: general
  • Stars: AGB and post-AGB
  • Stars: mass-loss

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