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Planetary Nebula - an emission nebula (i.e., cloud of gas) emitted by certain types of stars when they die.

Fairly rare, out of 200 billion stars in our galaxy only 3000 planetary nebula are known to exist. There are certainly more...we can't clearly see all of the galaxy from the vicinity of earth. Too, a planetary nebula will only be in its visible phase for around 10,000 years (a blink of the eye on the cosmological time scale).

Planetary nebulas get their name from the early days of the telescope. Back then, telescopes were of low quality and anything that looked like a planet, but wasn't moving like a planet, was classified as a 'planetary' nebula. Telescopes quickly improved and even though it became obvious that planets and planetary nebula have very little in common, the name stuck.

The images of the planetary nebula below are presented in increasing order of their NGC (New General Catalog) number.


   
 

NGC 6720 (Messier 57) - the Ring Nebula in the constellation Lyra

Roughly 2000 light years away, M57 is the gas expelled from the central star (visible in the center of the nebula) as it switches from hydrogen to helium 'burning'. It's one of the best examples of a planetary nebula.

M57 is nearly overhead near midnight in July at mid-northern latitudes. Under a clear, dark sky it can be seen in a small telescope or binoculars as a greenish oval.

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 10 images, 2 with a red filter, 2 with a green, 2 with a blue (two minutes with each filter), and four 10-minute exposures with no filter. Taken the night of July 1-2, 2008. 12" SCT at f/10, field is about 12 arc-minutes square.

 

   

NGC 6742 - planetary nebula in Draco

Notes: possible f/40 target

 

   
NGC 6853

NGC 6853 (Messier 27)- the 'Dumbbell' nebula in the constellation Vulpecula.

Discovered by Charles Messier in 1764, it's the most impressive 'planetary nebula' in the sky, and is easy with binoculars under a dark sky.

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 4 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter and one through a clear filter. The red/green/blue images were 2 minutes each, and the clear exposure was 5 minutes. Taken August 3rd, 2008.

 

 

   
NGC 6894

NGC 6894 - planetary nebula in Cygnus

 

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 300 seconds each. Taken July 12, 2009.

 

   
NGC 7008

NGC 7008 - planetary nebula in Cygnus

One of the fun things about doing this is the occasional surprise I have when I see something for the first time in color. By quickly scrolling through this page you can see that it's reasonable to think that planetary nebula have a lot of red in them. It was a delight when I assembled this image and saw a lot of blue and violet! Clearly NGC 7008 has some processes going on that are different than the garden-variety planetary nebula.  

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 240 seconds each. Taken September 7th, 2008.

 

   
NGC 7026

NGC 7026 - planetary nebula in Cygnus

Another great target...if you happen to have the Hubble Space Telescope at your disposal<g>. The problem with NGC 7026 isn't it's brightness, just that its so small. I'll revisit this one someday and give it a try with a Televue 4X barlow.

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 240 seconds each. Taken September 7th, 2008.

The colorful vertical spike intruding into the image from the bottom is light from a bright star that was just outside the field of view.

 

   
NGC 7027

NGC 7027 - planetary nebula in Cygnus

As I mentioned before, many times these images are a surprise to me as it's often the first time I've seen a particular object, and the surprise isn't always good. NCG 7026 is unremarkable in this image. It's the slightly oval shaped blob in the center of the image that looks pretty much like a star. A pity, since it's a very interesting object. 2,600 light years distant, and given it's small size it must be in the early stages of planetary nebula formation.

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 240 seconds each. Taken September 7th, 2008.

 

   
NGC 7048

NGC 7048 - planetary nebula in Cygnus

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 240 seconds each. Taken early September, 2008.

Notes: possible f/40 target

 

   
NGC 7139

NGC 7139 - planetary nebula in Cepheus

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 240 seconds each. Taken on September 7th, 2008.

 

   
PLN 88-1.1

PLN 88-1.1 - planetary nebula in Cepheus

Technical details about the image: it's a combination of 3 images, 1 each with a red, green and blue filter, 240 seconds each. Taken September 7th, 2008.

Notes: possible f/40 target

 

   

 

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Questions/comments, E-mail me at john at theastroimager dot com