Towards a new distance scale and luminosity function for nearby planetary nebulae

David J. Frew*, Q. A. Parker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

4 Citations (Scopus)


The local planetary nebula (PN) census is dominated by extremely evolved, examples, and until recently, was incomplete. New discoveries from the AAO/UKST Hα Survey and SHASSA, have partially remedied this problem. In addition, we find that some currently accepted nearby PNe are in fact Strömgren spheres in the ISM ionised by a hot white dwarf. Distance estimates for a robust sample of calibrating PNe from the literature, plus new distances for a number of highly evolved PNe, have allowed a new Ha surface brightness - radius relationship to be devised as a useful distance indicator. It covers >6 dex in SB, and while the spread in SB is ∼1 dex at a given radius, optically thick (mainly bipolar and bipolar-core) PNe tend to populate the upper bound of the trend, while common-envelope PNe and very high-excitation PNe form a sharp lower boundary. Hence, distances can be estimated for all remaining local PNe, allowing the definition of a relatively complete census of PNe in the solar neighbourhood within 1.0 kpc. This provides a first look at the faint end of the PN luminosity function, and new estimates of the space density, scale height, total number, and birth rate of Galactic PNe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-52
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
Issue number234
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • (ISM:) planetary nebulae: general
  • Stars: distances


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