Waid Observatory

Object: M27 - The Dumbbell Nebula

Date: June 30, July 1-2, 2024  -  Location: Dark Sky Observatory - Fort Davis, TX
Telescope: 16 inch RC  -  Mount: Paramount-MEII  -  Camera: FLI 16803
Exposure: Ha = 12x30 min. OIII = 14x30 min. Red, Green, Blue = 15x2 min each - All Bin 2x2

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M27 - The Dumbbell Nebula

Messier 27 (NGC 6853) is a typical planetary nebula and is located in the constellation Vulpecula (The Fox)[2].  The distance is rather uncertain, but is believed to be around 1200 light-years[2].  The French astronomer Charles Messier found it in 1764[3] and included it as no. 27 in his famous list of extended sky objects.  In fact, it is the first planetary nebula ever discovered[1].  Due to its optical appearance when viewed in the eyepiece, M27 is known as the Dumbbell Nebula and the Apple Core Nebula[3].

Despite its planetary class, the Dumbbell Nebula has nothing to do with planets.  It consists of very rarified gas that has been ejected from the hot central star. In the photo above it is the small bluish white star in the center of the nebula. This star is in its last evolutionary stage[2] resulting in a White Dwarf stellar ember.  This dying stellar core has an estimated temperature of 85,000K[1].  The gas atoms in the nebula are excited (heated) by the intense ultraviolet radiation from this white dwarf star and emit strongly at specific wavelengths[1,2] of light.  This is much like the way a modern neon sign produces it colorful display.

The nebula is thought to be cones of ejected gas[4] and is viewed, from our position, along its equatorial plane[1]. If viewed from its polar, or axial orientation, it would most likely appear as a ring such as M57 (The Ring Nebula)[4].

Scientific studies of M27 reveal a complex shell structure comprised of 3 separate rings[1] with an extended very low surface brightness shell[1].  These features are best revealed using narrowband filters.

The above image is orientated with north up and east to the left.  Image integration and processing were accomplished using the software applications PixInsightTM and PhotoshopTM.

1Robert Gendler: http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/M27text.html
2European Southern Observatory: https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso9846a/
3Cosgrove's Cosmos: https://cosgrovescosmos.com/projects/m27-the-dumbbell-nebula
4Sun Kwok and Sze-Ning Chong, et al.: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/592103/fulltext/

Copyright Donald P. Waid