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Planetary nebulae represent the brief transition between Asymptotic Giant Branch stars and White Dwarfs. As multi-wavelength laboratories they have played a key role in developing our understanding of atomic, molecular, dust and plasma processes in astrophysical environments. The means by which their wonderfully diverse morphologies are obtained is currently the subject of intense research, including hydrodynamical shaping mechanisms and the role of binarity, stellar magnetic fields and rotation.
Their contribution to the chemical enrichment of galaxies is another very active research area, as is the ever growing use of their narrow high luminosity emission lines to probe the dynamics and mass distributions of galaxies and the intergalactic media of clusters of galaxies. IAU S234 summarises the current status of research on the properties and processes of planetary nebulae, as reported in reviews and papers by leading experts working in the field.
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