This beautiful nebula is usually regarded as the largest and nearest planetary nebula. The nebula has a low surface brightness and is difficult to see unless you have dark skies. The nebula consists of very tenuous gas illuminated by a tiny but very hot 13th magnitude dense bluish dwarf. The gasses forming the nebula glow (similar to a fluorescent light) as a result of ultraviolet radiation from the central star. The estimated temperature of the central star is about 100,000 degrees K. The gas forming the nebula is thrown off by a star during the latter stages of stellar evolution. It is the mark of a dying star. Compare the Helix Nebula with the Ring Nebula.
This is an RGB composite CCD image taken with an SBIG ST-8E CCD on a Takahashi FCT-150 refractor carried on a Takahashi NJP mount. The exposures were made from a dark sky site in western Arizona.
RA: 22h 29m 41.0s Dec: -20d 47' 29"
July 15, 2001
Image by Sid Leach
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