Thursday, 11 August 2016

The eagle's glowing eye

There are so many planetary nebulae out there that sketching all of them would be close to impossible. As you know, they're dying stars that've just shed their atmosphere into space. When I use the term "just", we're talking about only several thousands of years ago, which is a nanosecond compared to the age of the universe. Their incredibly hot core heats up the resulting gas cloud up to the point that it starts to emit light on its own. Slowly this cloud of gas will expand and dissolve into space whereas the core, the remaining white dwarf star, will cool down and eventually extinguish. 

Planetary nebulae are called this way because they truly look a bit like a planet, with their generally round shape. But if you zoom into them, they'll reveal a surprising amount of detail. Gas filaments, structures and different layers give every single planetary nebula a character of its own and make every new one that you observe also a new experience. Yesterday I showed you the "Blue Flash" nebula. Not that far from it you can find this little fellow: the "Glowing Eye" in the tail of the constellation of Aquila, the eagle. With its magnitude of 11,9 it's within reach of most telescopes but due to its tiny size it can be quite tricky to find. For my sketch I used a magnification of 507x, which brought out quite some detail. I could easily see the brighter rim and some filaments of the inner sphere, which does look a bit like an iris. Its central star was also a lot more prominent than the one of NGC6905. 

The distance of this little gem is estimated at 6.500 lightyears...   

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