Appropriately nicknamed “the Skull Nebula”, planetary nebula NGC 246 really does surround a dying star some 1,600 light-years away in the constellation Cetus. Expelled over a period of thousands of years, the lovely, intricate nebula is the outer atmosphere of a once sun-like star. The expanding outer atmosphere is interacting with the gas and dust in the interstellar medium, while the star itself, seen at the nebula’s center, is entering its final phase of evolution, becoming a dense, hot white dwarf. The nebula spans just over 2.5 light-years at the estimated distance of NGC 246.
This image was cropped by 50%. The telescope and camera combination is taking images at about 75 times magnification (@1650mm focal length).
I took this image over 9 hours (13 images of 30 minutes each of Luminance and 5 images of each color of 20 minutes each).