Ring Nebula – M57

Dozens of planetary nebulae are visible in a small telescope, but none present such a distinctive and accessible appearance in a small telescope as the Ring Nebula (M57) in the constellation Lyra. Seen with your eyes, the Ring Nebula will show as a tiny silver-grey smoke ring set in a rich and beautiful section of the northern summer Milky Way.

The central star of the ring, a star about the size of our own Sun, began blowing off its outer layers about 20,000 years ago, and these layers now form the nebula. Its gases are fired up by the hot stellar remnant near the center. Having lost most of its outer layers, the central star of the Ring Nebula will now become a white dwarf. This hot blue star is very faint, about magnitude 14 or 15, and only visible in 12″ or larger telescopes.

The Ring Nebula is about 2,000 light years away and spans about 0.4 light years.

A about 1/3rd of the way to top-left, you will see hint of a far away galaxy. IC 1296 is much farther away – an estimated distance of ~221-million light years as compared to M57’s mere 2000 LY.

I took this image over 395 minutes in 2018. (23 luminance of 10 minutes each and 11 images each of 5 minutes for all 3 colors). I added some more data in 2022 and merged all the information to come up with a new picture.


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