Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia

Research Article

Searching for Faint Planetary Nebulae Using the Digital Sky Survey

George H. Jacobya1 c1, Matthias Kronbergera2, Dana Patchicka2, Philipp Teutscha2a3, Jaakko Salorantaa2, Michael Howella2, Richard Crispa2, Dave Riddlea2, Agnès Ackera4, David J. Frewa5a6 and Quentin A. Parkera5a7

a1 WIYN Observatory, 950 North Cherry Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719, USA

a2 Deepskyhunters Collaboration

a3 Institut für Astrophysik, Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck, Austria

a4 Observatoire Astronomique, Université de Strasbourg, 67000 Strasbourg, France

a5 Department of Physics, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109

a6 Perth Observatory, 337 Walnut Rd, Bickley, WA 6076

a7 Anglo-Australian Observatory, PO Box 296, Epping, NSW 1710


Recent Hα surveys such as SHS and IPHAS have improved the completeness of the Galactic planetary nebula (PN) census. We now know of ∼3000 PNe in the Galaxy, but this is far short of most estimates, typically ~25 000 or more for the total population. The size of the Galactic PN population is required to derive an accurate estimate of the chemical enrichment rates of nitrogen, carbon, and helium. In addition, a high PN count (>20 000) is strong evidence that most main-sequence stars of mass 1–8 M will go through a PN phase, while a low count (<10 000) argues that special conditions (e.g. close binary interactions) are required to form a PN. We describe a technique for finding hundreds more PNe using the existing data collections of the digital sky surveys, thereby improving the census of Galactic PNe.

(Received June 28 2009)

(Accepted October 01 2009)


  • binaries: general;
  • Galaxy: stellar content;
  • planetary nebulae: general;
  • techniques: miscellaneous


c1 Corresponding author. Email: