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Astr112 Photography Projects, Fall 2007

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Dumbbell Nebula (M27, NGC 6853), Kevin Chang

Dumbbell Nebula

The picture above shows the Dumbbell Nebula. It is a planetary nebula about 1360 light years from Earth, and is located in the Vulpecula constellation. The nebula itself is large enough and luminous enough to be viewed through binoculars. It was discovered in 1764 by Charles Messier, and was the first planetary nebula to be discovered. As a star ages it goes through different stages. Stars start out on the main sequence, and age until they become red giants. Stars go from phase to phase, until they near the end of the cycle where they drop off the sequence and shrink and cool into white dwarfs. A planetary nebula is what is left when a star has gone through its life cycle. At the center is the white dwarf, and the object gets its color from the different surrounding gases reflecting mostly the light of the white dwarf at the center and some light from surrounding stars. An interesting fact about the Dumbbell Nebula is that its central star's radius is the largest of any known white dwarf star.

The Dumbbell is named so simply for its shape. It looks like a dumbbell because when the star at its center died, the explosion only sent gases out in two opposite directions, shaping it to make the debris look like the two ends of a dumbbell. M27 is one of the brightest objects of its kind in space, with an apparent visual magnitude of 7.4. Nebulae are known for their various colors, which come from the gases' emission and absorbtion of light. Different gases emit different colors. For example, when a star becomes a white dwarf it scatters carbon, helium and hydrogen. The nebula itself is about 3 light years across, and is estimated to be between 3,000 to 4,000 years old.

References:
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Dumbbell Nebula". <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dumbbell_Nebula>.

Frommert, Hartmut and Kronberg, Christine. "Messier 27." <http://www.seds.org/MESSIER/m/m027.html>

Right Ascension (J2000) 19:59:36
Declination (J2000) +22:43:00
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 60 seconds in C, 300 seconds in BVR
Date observed

October 11, 2007 (C)
October 11, 2007(BVR)