An Eye in the Sky

ngc6751_hst_960Planetary nebulae appear simple, round, and planet-like in small telescopes. However, images from the Hubble Space Telescope have become well known for showing these fluorescent gas shrouds of dying Sun-like stars to possess a staggering variety of detailed symmetries and shapes. This composite color Hubble image of NGC 6751, the Glowing Eye Nebula, is a lovely example of a complex planetary nebula. Winds and radiation from the intensely hot central star (140,000 °C) have created the nebula’s streamer-like features. The nebula is about 0.8 light-years across, roughly 600 times the diameter of our Solar System. It’s 6,500 light-years distant in the constellation Aquila (the Eagle).

Image Credit: NASA

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