skyeye


At first glance, the Helix Nebula (aka NGC 7293), looks simple and round. But this
well-studied example of a planetary nebula, produced near the end of the life of a
sun-like star, is now understood to have a surprisingly complex geometry. Its extended
loops and comet-shaped features have been explored in Hubble Space Telescope images.
Still, a 16-inch diameter telescope and camera with broad and narrow band filters was used
to create this sharp view of the Helix. The color composite also reveals the nebula's intriguing
details, including light-year long, bluegreen radial stripes or spokes that give it the appearance
of a cosmic bicycle wheel. The spoke features seem to indicate that the Helix Nebula is itself
an old and evolved planetary nebula. The Helix is a mere seven hundred light years from
Earth, in the constellation Aquarius.