Friday, November 12, 2004

M27 the Dumbell Nebula and Goldilocks

M27 has the distinction of being the first planetary nebula ever discovered, by Charles Messier on July 12, 1764. It's interesting to note that we are seeing this nebula face on rather than edge on. If we were to see it edge on it would probably look very similar to M57 the Ring Nebula (see my Archives: 8/8/04-8/14/04 on the left). This is a relatively young nebula being only 3000 to 4000 years old.

It also contains on its outskirts a variable star, referred to as the 'Goldilocks Variable' which was discovered by Leos Ondra. He found the variable quite by accident while looking at two different 1990 magazine covers that both featured a picture on their covers of M27. One picture had the variable star in it and the other did not even though the pictures were taken only a few months apart. Talk about serendipity! I've pointed out where the variable star is located with two arrows in the negative image above. So the fun part of all this is that in a matter of several months this star can actually disappear from view and then gradually brighten again. Now you see it, now you don't.

This has been one of the more difficult objects for me to image and I'm glad I was finally able to show this unique nebula.

Who says I don't have good taste in jewelry?
Scroll your mouse over the ring and watch it light up!