A Tale of Two Nebulae

This colorful telescopic view towards the northern constellation Lyra
reveals dim outer regions around M57, popularly known as the Ring Nebula.
While modern astronomers still refer to M57 as a planetary nebula, at one
light-year across M57 is not a planet but the gaseous shroud of a dying
sun-like star. Roughly the same apparent size as M57, the fainter, often
overlooked barred spiral galaxy IC1296 is at the lower right and would have
been referred to in the early 20th century as a spiral nebula. By chance the
pair are in the same field of view, and while they appear to have similar
sizes they are actually very far apart. M57 lies at a distance of a mere 2,000
light-years, well within our own Milky Way galaxy. Extragalactic IC1296 is more
like 200,000,000 light-years distant or about 100,000 times farther away. Since
they appear roughly similar in size, spiral nebula IC1296 must also be about
100,000 times larger than planetary nebula M57.