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Astr111 Photography Projects, Fall 2009

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Little Dumbbell Nebula (M76), Ryan Van Baren

Little Dumbbell Nebula (M 76)

The Little Dumbbell Nebula is planetary nebula, which is ejected gas and material from a star which has run out of hydrogen and helium burning shells. The light we see in this planetary nebula is the result of electrons rejoining with ionized material that has been ionized by the star in the center of the nebula (Pasachoff 526). This particular planetary nebula, M76 is found in the eastern part of the constellation Perseus. M76 was discovered on September 15, 1780 by Pierre Mechain, who identified it as a nebula without stars (Frommert). It was not identified as a planetary nebula until 1918 by Heber D. Curtis (Frommert).

In the center of the Little Dumbbell Nebula photo we see a bright, elliptical ring edge on, made up of material ejected by the blue center star, which can be seen faintly in the center of the picture. The blue color of this center star shows that it emits mostly ultraviolet light, which allows the surrounding rings to fluoresce. Also, perpendicular to the bright ring we can see a much fainter ring, referred to as "butterfly wings" expanding from the central star. The material in this fainter ring was most likely ejected from the central star much earlier than the material in the brighter ring (Frommert). From the color of both the elliptical rings (green) we can see that they are mostly composed of oxygen. However, the red color seen on the brighter ring also shows the presence of hydrogen. The estimated distance of M76 is between 1,700 and 15,000 light years away. Based on a distance of 8,000 light years, I estimate the linear distance of M76 to be 3.202 light years.


Pasachoff, Jay M. Astronomy: From the Earth to the Universe. Sixth ed. Williamstown: n.p., 2002. Print.

Frommert, Hartmut and Kronberg, Christine. "NGC 7293." Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. <http://www.seds.org/MESSIER/xtra/ngc/n7293.html>

Right Ascension (J2000) 01:42:18
Declination (J2000) 51:34:00
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 5x60 seconds in C, 300 seconds in BVR
Date observed

November 2, 2009 (C)
November 2, 2009 (BVR)