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The Ring Nebula – M57

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The Ring Nebula – M57 – is probably the most famous celestial band (except for the rings of Saturn). Expansive looping structures are seen to extend far beyond the Ring Nebula’s familiar central regions in this intriguing composite of ground based and Hubble Space Telescope images with narrow band image data from Subaru.

Of course in this example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from the dying, once sun-like star at the nebula’s center.

Ionized oxygen atoms from the hot central star produce the characteristic greenish glow and ionized hydrogen the prominent red emission. The central ring of the Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away.

It shines in the northern constellation Lyra, to accompany tonight’s shooting stars.

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