This image was produced with a RCOS half meter telescope, Apogee Ascent A8050 camera and Astrodon E-Series filters. Exposure times: 420 minutes Luminance, 150 minutes Red, 150 minutes Green, 150 minutes Blue, 570 minutes H-alpha, 570 minutes OIII (All 1X1).

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Image copyright ©2011 R Jay GaBany

NGC 6853 (M27)

The Dumbbell Nebula

Read the article: Star Bubbles

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Phantoms of the Sky

Most people have heard about ghosts but few have seen them. Yet, surprisingly, many people consider them real. They're the stars of endless midnight stories, chilling novels and spooky motion pictures intent on having audiences shriek then run for the nearest bathroom. Typically described as translucent manifestations of the departed, ghosts usually abide near the location where they formerly thrived during life.

Regardless of your own disposition toward the possibility of having a spirited encounter, it can safely be said that some ghosts are real. But, instead of haunting a crumbling mansion, these ghosts are found high overhead at night, skulking the dark depths of deep outer space. Commony known as planetary nebulae, they are the phantoms of stars that have recently past away!

Flimsier than the thinnest soap bubble, these wispy apparitions make their appearance without the use of a sťance. Set aglow by invisible ultraviolet radiation, their semi-transparent disembodied shells reveal the tell-tell heart of a star that once was.

For example, about 4,000 years ago an elderly, bloated giant red star, located toward the northern constellation of Vulpecula, gave its last gasp and shed its outer skin exposing its still pulsating heart. It wasn't until the mid-1700s that Charles Messier, the famous French comet hunter, noticed its distant faint fuzzy circular glow and placed it in his catalog to prevent him from mistaking it as a comet during future night sky expeditions. A few years later, the musician turned astronomer named William Herschel gave these objects their name because of their resemblance to planets.

Telescopes back then lacked the color definition and clarity of even the most inexpensive instruments available today. So, both Messier and Herschel would most likely be astonished had they lived to enjoy our current view of this planetary nebula. Today, we know Messier's 27th catalog designation as the Dumbbell nebula. Read more...

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