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Astronomical Observatory: Cool Images

Astr112 Photography Projects, Fall 2007

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Little Dumbbell Nebula (M 76), Zach Kimmel

Little Dumbbell Nebula

The Little Dumbbell Nebula, also known as Messier 76 or the Barbell Nebula, is a planetary Nebula that was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1780. The Little Dumbbell is a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulae are formed by materials that are thrown off stars at the end of their lives. This particular nebula was formed by materials from the central star. When first discovered, there was much controversy about what the Little Dumbbell actually was. When Méchain discovered the object, he thought it was a nebula lacking stars. Charles Messier, who first added the object to his catalog, thought it was quite apparent the object was composed of small stars. It wasn't until 1918 that the object was correctly classified as a planetary nebula by Heber D. Curtis.

Planetary nebulae are surrounded by a glowing shell of gas, which provide partial reasoning for the vast differences in their colors. This particular nebula has two distinct parts to it: the nebula's bar or cork, and its wings. The bar of the nebula is the bright narrow portion that appears similar to a dumbbell. The wings are the more blurry portion of the nebula, located on both sides of the cork. The image as a whole is somewhere between 1,700 and 15,000 LY away. In calculating the linear size of the object, I used a number central to these values of 8,350 LY. Through this calculation the linear size of the Little Dumbbell is 2.4 by 1.2 LY. This nebula is expanding in conjunction with the expansion of the different layers of the star. In fact, the ring of the Dumbbell Nebula is expanding at a rate near 42 kilometers per second.

Frommert, Hartmut and Christine Kronberg. "Messier 76." Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. <>.

"Little Dumbbell Nebula ." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 December, 2007. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 10 Aug. 2004. <>.

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 300 seconds in CBVR
Date observed

October 12, 2007 (CBVR)





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