Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia Society
Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The Planetary Nebula Luminosity Function: Pieces of the Puzzle

R. Ciardullo
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. Email: rbc@astro.psu.edu

Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia 27(2) 149-155 https://doi.org/10.1071/AS09022
Submitted: 28 June 2009  Accepted: 22 September 2009   Published: 31 May 2010

Abstract

Extragalactic surveys in the emission line of [O iii] λ5007 have provided us with the absolute line strengths of large, homogeneous sets of planetary nebulae. These data have been used to address a host of problems, from the measurement of the extragalactic distance scale, to the study of stellar populations. I review our current understanding of the [O iii] planetary nebula luminosity function (PNLF), and discuss some of the physical processes that effect its structure. I also describe the features of the Hα PNLF, a function that, upon first glance, looks similar to the [O iii] PNLF, but which includes a very different set of objects. Finally, I discuss recent measurements of α, the number of PNe found in a stellar population, normalized to that population’s bolometric luminosity. I show that, contrary to expectations, the values of α found in actively star-forming spirals are essentially the same as those measured in late-type elliptical and lenticular systems. I discuss how this result sheds light on the physics of the planetary nebula phenomenon.

Keywords: galaxies: distances — planetary nebulae: general — galaxies: stellar content — stars: blue stragglers


Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the organizers of the MASH workshop for supporting this review, and the anonymous referee for excellent comments on the first draft of this text. The work was supported by NSF grant AST 06-07416.


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