Photo By: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as well as the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona and C. R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University) Links & videos below.

Who hasn’t seen this beautiful planetary nebula through the eyepiece or in amazing photos over the years? This is going to be a two-part post using new data gleaned through the Hubble Space Telescope and Large Binocular Telescope.

Cataloged as M57, NGC 6720 and known as The Ring Nebula it’s a bold, beautiful planetary nebula a mere 2000 light years away in the constellation Lyra. Discovered in 1779 by astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix he reportedly stated that it appeared as a fading planet the size of Jupiter. Chares Messier independently discovered this object that same month and added it as object 57 in his catalog of non-comets. As is usually the case with planetary nebula you have a star similar in mass to our Sun that has begun to die due to loss of hydrogen through the fusion process. About 4000 years ago the star swelled and much of its material was strewn into the universe and is currently expanding at about 43,000 miles per hour. The now exposed inner layers of the star are bombarding the expelled material with massive levels of ultraviolet radiation which renders the material aglow for us to view. The structures progenitor star, now a white dwarf remains at the center of the structure.

Let’s orient ourselves here as well; what appears as a spherical or elliptical structure is actually slightly barrel or football shaped (with the blue/green material being the football) and we are looking at said “football” from an angle to where one end of it is pointing directly at us.

Optical data provided in this photo comes from the Hubble Space Telescope and that data is combined with infrared data from the ground based Large Binocular Telescope

NAME?: Messier 57, M57, NGC 6720, Ring Nebula.

WHAT IS IT?: Planetary Nebula.

HOW BIG IS IT?: Main body of the structure is about 1 light year in diameter as we see it or 1.5 x 1 arcminutes on the night sky (The Moon and Sun are 0.5 degrees or 30 arcminutes).

HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Approximately 2000 light years distant.

APPARENT MAGITUDE?: 8.8 or +8.8 which for small telescopes is an easy view. The White Dwarf star at center is a dim 14.5 or +14.5 which makes it difficult to resolve.

WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Lyra just south of the star Vega. In the summer sky, the stars Vega, Deneb and Altair create the famous asterism known as the Summer Triangle. Knowing this makes the Ring Nebula an easy to find target even in non-computerized telescopes.

WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 18h 53m 35s / DEC +33° 01’ 45.03”.

NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/13

NASA Hubblesite News Center PHOTO RELEASE PAGE: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/13/image/

Large Binocular Telescope website: http://www.lbto.org/index.htm

NASA / ESA video of a Ring Nebula fly-around:

NASA / ESA Hubblecast Episode 66:

Image | This entry was posted in Astronomy (Learning), Astrophotography (DSOs), Images, Nebula (Planetary), Stars (Non-Sun Related), Telescopes & Detection Equip., Video, ZOOM Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


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