CELESTIAL IMAGE CO. / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CELESTIAL IMAGE CO. / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Helix planetary nebula. True-colour optical image of the Helix planetary nebula (NGC 7293). This is the nearest planetary nebula to Earth, lying around 450 light years away in the constellation Aquarius. Planetary nebulae are poorly named, as they have no association with either planets or nebulae. Instead, they consist of shells of gas ejected from the surface of a dying star. The gas is ionised by radiation from their central star, causing it to glow. The name arose from the objects' appearance through early telescopes. This image was produced by digitally combining photographs taken by the UK Schmidt Telescope in blue and red light.
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