Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Previous image Up to Astr111 Index Next image ASTR 110 Photography Projects, Fall 2015

Dumbbell Nebula (NGC 6853), Little Dumbbell Nebula (NGC 650), & Crystal Ball Nebula (NGC 1514)
Annemarie Byl, Taylor Sheehan, and Katie Feringa

Helix Nebula
Dumbbell Nebula- Katie Feringa Little Dumbbell Nebula- Annemarie Byl

Helix Nebula  
The Crystal Ball Nebula - Taylor Sheehan  

What is a Planetary Nebula?

When a star dies, it swells into a red giant. Upon its collapse, it will shed its outer layer due to stellar winds and the ionized gas which is left over glows as a planetary nebula (Redd). This name of "planetary nebula" came from William Herschel in the 1700's when looking into space, he thought the blue and green planetary nebula looked like Uranus, although he knew they were not planets (Ventrudo). They are short-lived phenomena, lasting mere tens of thousands of years as opposed to the usual stellar lifetime of a few billion years (Wikipedia). They are very complex - having been observed by the Hubble telescope it was found that the majority are not symmetrical and house a wide variety of features and shapes.

The Dumbbell Nebula

The Dumbbell Nebula, also known as the Messier 27, was discovered Charles Messier in 1764 and was the first planetary nebula discovered. The nebula is located within the Vulpecula constellation, approximately 1,360 light years away. The Vulpecula constellation is visible high in the east at nightfall. Within the Vulpecula constellation, the Dumbbell Nebula is located between two bright stars, Deneb and Altair (Dunbar). The Dumbbell Nebula fills 4.5 light years of space. The green color emitted from the nebula comes from hot gas atoms that are heated by the ultraviolet light within the central white dwarf. The Dumbbell Nebula has been expanding for thousands of years and is predicted to be visible for thousands of years more. After the nebula expands and spreads thin enough to not be visible, the remain gas and dust may be a part of forming new planets and stars in the future (Benningfield).

The Little Dumbbell Nebula

Located in the Perseus constellation, the Little Dumbbell Nebula, discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1780, is categorized as a planetary nebula (Phillips). Upon the discovery, Mechain reported to Charles Messier and Messier included the nebula in his list of Messier Objects - one of the faintest discoveries. The Little Dumbbell Nebula is also referred to as the Butterfly Nebula, Cork Nebula, and Barbell Nebula due to its shape. Approximated to be about 2,500 light years away, it is 1.23 light years across in size ("The Little Dumbbell Nebula").

The Crystal Ball Nebula

The Crystal Ball Nebula, (NGC 1514) was discovered in 1790 by Sir William Herschel. He describes it as " a most singular phenomenon." It is located in the Taurus constellation, and is classified as a planetary nebula. The Crystal Ball nebula contains a pair of stars. These pair of stars have ultraviolet light that emitts a greenish blue color. This nebula was formed when a pair of dying stars shed their outer layer (Clavin).These planetary nebulas are considered to be the "butterflies of space," which is obviously named for the bright winged color they give off.


All three Nebulas are classified as Planetary Nebulas. They are all also emitting light energy. The Dumbbell Nebula and the Little Dumbbell Nebula are emitting the colors red and bluish green. The Crystal Ball Nebula however, is emitting only a blue color. The Dumbbell Nebula and the Little Dumbbell Nebula are also similar in their shapes. These nebulas got their names because of their resemblence to a dumbbell weight in visible light. The Crystal Ball Nebula is a sphere shape surrounded by a cloud of blue gas.


Two of these Nebulas contain no star, while the third Nebula does contain a star. The Crystal Ball Nebula is the only one of these three that contains a star, as you can clearly see in the picture. The Little Dumbell Nebula contains purple and red colors and displays a sort of butterfly wing shape. The Dumbell Nebula contains a red and green color with a circular shape. The Crystal Ball Nebula contains a green and blue color with a circular shape as well. The different colors given off are a result of the different elements contained within the nebula.


Arnett, Bill. Types of Nebulae. Web. 6 Dec. 2010. <>.

Benningfield, Damond. "Dumbbell Nebula. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. <>.

Clavin, Whitney. "WISE Image Reveals Strange Specimen in Starry Sea." NASA. NASA, 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 2 Dec. 2015. <>.

Dunbar, Brian. "Weighing in on the Dumbbell Nebula." NASA. NASA, 10 Aug. 2011. Web. 01. Dec. 2015. <>.

"Little Dumbbell Nebula." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

Philips, J.P. (2005). "The distances of highly evolved planetary nebulae". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 357 (2): 619–625

Redd, Nola Taylor. "What Is a Planetary Nebula? | Planetary Nebula Definition |" N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

Ventrudo, Brian. "One Minute Astronomer." One Minute Astronomer. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015.

Object Dumbbell Nebula Little Dumbbell Nebula Crystal Ball Nebula
Right Ascension (J2000) 19h 59m 36.3s 1:42:18 04:09:16.984
Declination (J2000) 22:43:18 51:34:00 30:46:33.47
Filters used B (Blue), C (Clear), R (Red), V (Green) B (Blue), C (Clear), R (Red), V (Green) B (Blue), C (Clear), R (Red), V (Green)
Exposure time per filter B (600s), C (300s), R (79s), V (200s) B (600s x2), V (200s), R (79s), and C (300s) B (600s x 2), V (200s), R (79s) and C (300s)
Image dimension 806 x 564 pixels; 1047.8 x 733.2 arcminutes 622x437 pixels; 808.6x586.1 arcminutes 818x654 pixels; 1063.4x850.2 arcminutes
Date/time observed

October 1, 2015, 7:25 UT

September 29, 2015, 6:22 UT September 29, 2015, 10:05 UT




Secondary content.


Side content.