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Astr110 Photography Projects, Spring 2010

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Blinking Planetary Nebula , Courtney Vander Hulst

Blinking Planetary Nebula

The Blinking Planetary Nebula (located a bit to the right of center in this photograph), is found in the constellation Cygnus. Planetary nebulas are created when a star does not have sufficient mass to become exploding supernovae. Their mass is instead expended in strong stellar winds. These stellar winds form a sort of halo which circles around a white dwarf star in its center. In this picture, we do not see this halo as visibly as they may be seen in other photographs. The Blinking Planetary Nebula gets its name from the fact that when you look at it directly through a small telescope, the halo disappears from visibility, but when you avert your eyes to view it, the halo comes back into view. Because the halos of planetary nebulas are composed of stellar winds, planetary nebulae only appear in the sky for a few thousand years. Astronomers suppose that our own Sun will become a planetary nebula when its life as a star comes to an end.

The image above was taken from Calvin's telescope in Rehoboth, New Mexico early in the morning of March 4, 2010. Looking at the photograph, we see this nebula surrounded by a myriad of stars of various sizes, scattered throughout the sky. Some of these night objects appear relatively large, and some quite small. Some seem to have a more bluish color, while others seem bright white. We now know that stars come with a wide variety of characteristics. The white dwarf star in the center of the Blinking Planetary Nebula, is about 2,200 light years from earth. When we view it in the sky, what we see of the Blinking Planetary Nebula spans a distance of only .46 arcminutes. We can calculate from this information that the Blinking Planetary Nebula is .29 lightyears, or 3.5 lightmonths across.

References:

"NGC6826: Blinking Planetary Nebula."

"Blinking Nebula (NGC 6826)"

"Halos of planetary nebulae revealed"

Right Ascension (J2000) 19:45:04
Declination (J2000) 50:32:14
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 10x30 seconds in BVC, 5x60 seconds in Red
Date observed

March 3, 2010