Photometric Survey of Central Stars of Planetary Nebulae

Faculty Sponsor

Todd Hillwig


Arts and Sciences


Physics & Astronomy

ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Summer 7-26-2023


Complete surveys of the central stars of planetary nebulae are essential for understanding the fractions of these objects that exist as close binary systems, allowing for better understanding of stellar evolution. Planetary nebulae are regions of ionized gas expelled from a dying star that has just left the asymptotic giant branch which is evolving into a white dwarf. In this research, we utilized an existing catalog of all planetary nebulae within 2 kpc from us, with a total of 235 targets. We then used photometric data from ZTF (Zwicky Transient Facility), SARA (Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy) telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory, and other private telescopes to study the central stars of these planetary nebulae. We visually examined the brightness of the nebulosity and determined which planetary nebulae have bright nebulosity that would cause uncertainty in the photometry of the central stars. We then recorded average brightness and average variation ranges for each central star for which quality data was available. Then we reviewed the brightness data to determine if each central star varied in brightness in a way indicative of a close companion. If such variability was present we identified that central star as a candidate binary system. We discuss here the results of our search in the context of the overall fraction of planetary nebula central stars that exist as close binary systems.

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