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Astr112 Photography Projects, Spring 2006

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Cat's Eye Nebula, Melissa Van Wyk

Cat'sEye Nebula

NGC 6543, known as the Cat's Eye Nebula for its shape, is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Draco. Some of its important distinctions include its very complex structure within its rings including its gas shells as well as jets and knots of gas, making it one of the most complex nebulas observed. Similar to other planetary nebulae, the Cat's Eye Nebula was formed from a star 8 to 12 times more massive than our sun which expelled its material into a shell around it which slowly drifts away, leaving only a white dwarf star behind. But because of the unusual complexity of its structures, exactly how this nebula was formed remains debatable, but one of the most compelling arguments is that this planetary nebula is actually the result of two stars, which complicated the formation of the gases into the nebula. This still remains unproven however, as even the Hubble Space Telescope has been unable to detect the presence of two stars. The Cat's Eye Nebula was originally discovered on February 15, 1786, and in 1864 its spectrum was observed by the amateur astronomer William Huggins, making it the first planetary nebula to have its spectrum observed.

In this image the white dwarf star (or stars), the remnant of the high mass star at the center of the planetary nebula, is clearly visible. The general structure of its two interlocking rings, the shells of material from the dying star, is also visible, displaying its wonderful mixture of colors. The Cat's Eye Nebula is approximately .097 parsecs wide and 1000 parsecs away from earth.

References:
Planetary Nebulae

Cat's Eye Nebula - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

Hubble Site - Hubble Probes the Complex History of Dying Star - 1/11/1995

Right Ascension (J2000) 17:58:35.2
Declination (J2000) +66:37:54
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 300 seconds in C, 60 seconds in BVR
Date observed

March 15, 2006 (C)
March 13, 2006 (VR)
March 15, 2006 (B)