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Astr112 Photography Projects, Fall 2007

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Blinking Planetary Nebula (NGC 6826), Jordan Clegg

Blinking Planetary Nebula

The “Blinking Planetary” is a planetary nebula. This is determined by the “bubble-like” structure of the nebula which surrounds a central white dwarf star.  A planetary nebula is formed by the debris and gas left behind by a red giant star that has run out of hydrogen to burn and collapsed expelling a large cloud of gas out from its center.  This planetary nebula is an example of how how rapidly some stars are capable of dying out.  This nebula is speculated to only last about 10,000 years before the gas becomes too diffuse to see as it moves away from the central star.  A close up view of this nebula reveals an extremely bright central star.  In fact, this is one of the brightest nebular stars yet to be discovered.  The star is surrounded by a double layer of gases which make the object look eerily like a human eye.  This, plus the blinking illusion created by our own eyes give the nebula its nickname, the “Blinking Eye Nebula.”  Some researchers have discovered two strange objects appear in this nebula called FLIERs.  These are red smudges on opposite ends of the nebula.  FLIER stands for Fast Low-Ionization Emission Regions and remains mostly a mystery to date.  Some say that the FLIERs were ejected from the dying star much like the gas surrounding it, but evidence suggests that these unusual objects are either stationary or actually moving toward the central star!  Both of these arguments can be supported by what appears to be a sort of boat-like wake behind the FLIERs. 

Unfortunately some of the more interesting features cannot be seen in this distant photograph.  However, we can still see the distinctive green hue to the nebula itself.  The center of the nebula appears to have a blue or violet color to it which is mostly a result of the overexposure of the photograph due to the extreme brightness of the central star.  The red FLIERs are nowhere to be seen in this photo but would be found in on either side of the horizontal axis.  The size of the nebula in this photo is about 0.6 light years across.


University of Washington: Astronomy Department

Astronomy Picture of the Day <http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap010526.html>


Right Ascension (J2000) 19:44:48
Declination (J2000) +50:31:00
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 60 seconds in C, 300 seconds in BV, 150 seconds in R
Date observed

October 24, 2007