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Picture of the Day - The Dumbbell Nebula

Published by Matt on Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:36 pm via: ESO
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The Dumbbell Nebula  – also known as Messier 27  or NGC 6853  – is a typical planetary nebula and is located in the constellation Vulpecula (The Fox). The distance is rather uncertain, but is believed to be around 1200 light-years. It was first described by the French astronomer and comet hunter Charles Messier who found it in 1764 and included it as no. 27 in his famous list of extended sky objects.

The Dumbbell Nebula. Credit: ESO

The Dumbbell Nebula. Credit: ESO

Despite its class, the Dumbbell Nebula has nothing to do with planets. It consists of very rarified gas that has been ejected from the hot central star (well visible on this photo), now in one of the last evolutionary stages. The gas atoms in the nebula are excited (heated) by the intense ultraviolet radiation from this star and emit strongly at specific wavelengths.

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