Although it may appear round and planet-like in a small telescope, Messier 27 (M27), the Dumbbell Nebula, is now known to be an excellent example of a gaseous emission nebula created as a sun-like star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core.
The nebula forms as the star's outer layers are expelled into space,
with a visible glow generated by atoms excited by the dying star's
intense but invisible ultraviolet light. The Dumbbell Nebula, the
beautifully symmetric interstellar gas cloud, is over 2.5 light-years
across and about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula.
This impressive color composite highlights subtle jet features in the nebula. It was recorded with a robotic telescope sited in Hawaii using narrow band filters sensitive to emission from oxygen atoms (shown in green) and hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen emission is seen as red (H-alpha) and fainter bluish hues (H-beta).
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