Location of Photo:
Rio Hurtado Valley, Chile
Date/Time of photo:
PlaneWave Instruments CDK 20"; ML16200 (Remote Astronomy via iTelescope)
The Helix Nebula is a planetary nebula formed by an intermediate to low-mass star. When a star of this size ages, it gradually sheds its outer layer, making an outward-drifting shell of gas and dust. Its core collapses to form a compact white dwarf that slowly radiates its energy away. The radiation then catches up with the gases, ionizing them and creating this astonishing scene. You can find the white dwarf star in the centre of this image; it's now about the size of the Earth. Another interesting thing about this nebula is that the star in the centre is somewhat similar to our sun. This led to the belief that in 5 billion years, when our solar system begins to age and fade away, it might turn into a beautiful nebula just like this one. (Credit: the data was acquired from iTelescope, which I processed using pixinsight and photoshop).