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  • Menzel Catalog

    Reggie Jones

    If you download a 1-Click Observation narrowband data for the Ant Nebula, you should know that this object’s designation is Menzel 3.  Dr Donald H. Menzel was a Professor of Astrophysics at Harvard University for over 30 years.  He is known for discovering the physical properties of the solar chromosphere.  Dr Menzel was also known for his work on the chemistry of stars and the nature of gaseous nebulae.  However, it seems that he was the among the first, if not the first scientist to successfully begin to apply quantum mechanics to astronomical spectroscopy.

    However, as far as the catalog of objects with his name associated to them, it appears there are only 3 objects in this catalog and they are all planetary nebulae.  Dr Menzel discovered all three objects in 1922 when he was 21 years old.  He apparently was studying the constellation of Norma, The Carpenter’s Square in the southern hemisphere where all 3 of these objects reside.

    Menzel 1 is a 12th magnitude Planetary Nebula that is about 4,500 light years from us and has a physical diameter of about 1 light year.

    Menzel 2 is another Planetary Nebula in Norma with a similar magnitude to Menzel 1.  The attached image was entered in the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by Serge Meunier in October 2015.

    Menzel 3 is the most famous of the 3 objects as it is also known as the Ant Nebula.  It is near a 14th magnitude Planetary Nebula also in the constellation of Norma, but it is somewhere between 8,000 and 11,000 light years away depending on which source you use and has a physical diameter of 1 to 2 light years.

    Prior to his death in 1976, Harper Collins published Dr Menzel’s first edition of A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets.  A specific feature of this work is that Dr Menzel categorizes all 88 modern astronomical constellations that are recognized by the IAU into 8 separate families or groupings as a way to help people learn where all the constellations are located in the sky.  A student of his helped edit later editions of his Field Guide and it is now one of the Peterson Field Guides.

    Image Credits:

    Dr Menzel; Havard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Menzel 1; European Southern Observatory (ESO)

    Menzel 2; ESA/Hubble & NASA; Serge Meunier

    Menzel 3; NASA ESA & Hubble Heritage Team; R. Sahai (JPL), B. Balick (University of Washington)

    XTL Story Aug10_ESO Menzel_1_-_EFOSC.2003-02-04T08_59_53.985.png

    XTL Story Aug10_Mz2_NASAESAHubbleMenzel-2.jpg

    XTL Story Aug10_Mz3_NASASpaceTelescopeScienceInstitute.jpg

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