Planetary Nebulae: Observational Properties, mimics and diagnostics

David J. Frew, Quentin A. Parker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    134 Citations (Scopus)


    The total number of true, likely and possible planetary nebulae (PN) now known in the Milky Way is nearly 3000, double the number known a decade ago. The new discoveries are a legacy of the recent availability of wide field, narrowband imaging surveys, primarily in the light of H-alpha. In this paper, we summarise the various PN discovery techniques, and give an overview of the many types of objects which mimic PN and which appear as contaminants in both Galactic and extragalactic samples. Much improved discrimination of classical PN from their mimics is now possible based on the wide variety of high-quality multiwavelength data sets that are now available. We offer improved taxonomic and observational definitions for the PN phenomenon based on evaluation of these better diagnostic capabilities. However, we note that evidence is increasing that the PN phenomenon is heterogeneous, and PN are likely to be formed from multiple evolutionary scenarios. In particular, the relationships between some collimated symbiotic outflows and bipolar PN remain uncertain.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)129-148
    Number of pages20
    JournalPublications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • AGB and post-AGB - Stars
    • Catalogs - Planetary nebulae
    • Fundamental parameters - Surveys - Techniques
    • General - Stars
    • Photometric
    • Spectroscopic


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