Planetary nebulae in the UWISH2 survey

T. M. Gledhill (Lead / Corresponding author), D. Froebrich, J. Campbell-White, A. M. Jones

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Near-infrared imaging in the 1 − 0 S(1) emission line of molecular hydrogen is able to detect planetary nebulae (PNe) that are hidden from optical emission line surveys. We present images of 307 objects from the UWISH2 survey of the northern Galactic Plane, and with the aid of mid-infrared colour diagnostics draw up a list of 291 PN candidates. The majority, 183, are new detections and 85 per cent of these are not present in H α surveys of the region. We find that more than half (54 per cent) of the objects have a bipolar morphology and that some objects previously considered as elliptical or point-source in H α imaging, appear bipolar in UWISH2 images. By considering a small subset of objects for which physical radii are available from the H α surface brightness–radius relation, we find evidence that the H2 surface brightness remains roughly constant over a factor 20 range of radii from 0.03 to 0.6 pc, encompassing most of the visible lifetime of a PN. This leads to the H α surface brightness becoming comparable to that of H2 at large radius (>0.5 pc). By combining the number of UWISH2 PNe without H α detection with an estimate of the PN detection efficiency in H2 emission, we estimate that PN numbers from H α surveys may underestimate the true PN number by a factor between 1.5 and 2.5 within the UWISH2 survey area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3759-3777
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number3
Early online date14 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • stars: evolution
  • planetary nebulae: general
  • infrared: stars


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