The Dumbbell Nebula

From The European Southern Observatory

The Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27 = NGC 6853) is a typical planetary nebula 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.

The Dumbbell Nebula 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.

In this three-color composite, a short exposure was first made through a wide-band filtre registering blue light from the nebula. It was then combined with exposures through two interference filtres in the light of double-ionized oxygen atoms and atomic hydrogen. They were colour-coded as "blue", "green" and "red", respectively, and then combined to produce this picture that shows the structure of the nebula in "approximately true" colours. North is up; East is left.

Based on press release with ESO PR Photo 38a/98
Catalog #:Photo 38a/98
Target Name: The Dumbbell Nebula

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Last Modified On: Friday, November 10, 2000