Ed Bianchina's Astronomy


Planatary Nebula

These objects actually have nothing to do with planets at all.  They are actually what is left over from stars like our sun.  When a star about the size of our sun gets to the end of its life and runs out of hydrogen fuel it begins to swell and cast off its outer shells of gas.  This gas interacts with the magnetic field of the dying star and get twisted into unusual shapes.  In addition the gas is made up of many different elements and when they are heated by the star they glow in different colors.


Even though there are many in our neighborhood they are generally small in size and hard to photograph.  I need higher magnification and steady skies to get the best images. 

The Ring Nebula - Messier 57

The Ring Nebula is one of the best known objects in the sky.  It was discovered in 1779 by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix who reported that it was "...as large as Jupiter and resembles a planet which is fading."  This started the misnomer of the planetary nebula.  It is located in the constellation of Lyra and is easily found near the bright star of Vega. The two pictures below are with two different scopes, the top is with the new AT8RC and the bottom is with my 9.25 SCT.  Note the better shape (round) of the newer image and the better definition of the central star in the nebula.


Ring Nebula taken with the AT8RC in May 2011


Ring Nebula taken with the 9.25 in 2009.



The Eskimo Nebula

The Eskimo Nebula derives its name from its likeness to a human face in a parka.  Can you see it?  It is also known as Clownface Nebula and is a bipolar double-shell planetary nebula. It was discovered by astronomer William Herschel in 1787. As with all planetary nebula it is surrounded by gas that composed the outer layers of a Sun-like star. The visible inner filaments are ejected by strong wind of particles from the central star. The outer disk contains unusual light-year long orange filaments.

NGC 2392 lies more than 2,870 light-years away and is in the constellation of Gemini.

The Owl Nebula

When you look at the image you can easily see why it is called the Owl Nebula. It is located in the big dipper and is relatively nearby at 2,300 light-years from our Sun, so it appears 3.2 arcminutes in diameter - only ten times smaller than the Full Moon. The nebula's unusual name goes back to Lord Rosse, who found in 1848 a striking resemblance to the face of an owl, with two dark circular perforations and "a star in each cavity" giving the impression of two gleaming eyes. It was discovered in 1849. 


Blue Snowball Nebula

NGC 7662 (also known as the Blue Snowball Nebula) is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Andromeda.

The distance to this nebula is not known with any real accuracy. According to the Skalnate Pleso Catalogue (1951) the distance of NGC 7662 is about 1,800 light years, the actual diameter about 20,000 AU. In a more recent survey of the brighter planetaries, C.R.O'Dell (1963) derived a distance of 1,740 parsecs or about 5,600 light years, increasing the actual size to 0.8 light year, or nearly 50,000 AU. It has a faint central star that is variable, with a magnitude range of 12 to 16.[3] The central star is a bluish dwarf with a continuous spectrum and a computed temperature of about 75,000K. The nuclei of the planetary nebulae are among the hottest stars known. 

The Saturn Nebula

The Saturn Nebula gets it name from the its resembelence to the planet saturn and is in the constellation Aquarius. It was so named by Lord Rosse in the 1840s, when telescopes had improved to the point that its Saturn-like shape could be discerned.  It was discovered by William Herschel on September 7, 1782. The nebula was originally a low-mass star that transformed into a bright white dwarf star of apparent magnitude 11.5. 

The Saturn Nebula is a complex planetary nebula and contains many morphological and kinematic sub-systems in three dimensions. It includes a halo, jet-like streams, multiple shells, ansae ("handles"), and small-scale filaments and knots. The ansae are expanding non-radially from the central star.

The distance of the Saturn Nebula is not known precisely because no reference stars have been detected in its neighborhood that could be used to accurately gauge it. Therefore any distance given is somewhat suspect. Sabbadin et al. 2004 estimates the distance to be 5,200 light-years (1.6 kpc). In 1963 O'Dell estimated it to be 3,900 light-years (1.2 kpc), which gives an approximate diameter of 0.5 light years for the object as a whole.