The Helix Nebula: The Eye of God

Expelled outer layers of white dwarf glowing brightly in the infrared 

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Space news (astrophysics: planetary nebula; Helix Nebula) – 650 light-years from Earth toward the constellation Aquarius – 

This composite image shows a visually stunning planetary nebula labeled “The Eye of God” more serious observers call the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293). Planetary nebula are the remains of a dying star much like our own Sol, only 5 billion years in the future. At this time the Sun will run out of hydrogen to use as its fuel source for the fusion process and will start using helium to create heavier carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Once it runs out of helium to fuse, it will die and expel its outer gas layers, leaving a tiny, hot core called a white dwarf. An Earth-sized core so dense a teaspoon full would weigh more than a few black rhinos. 

First discovered in the 18th century, planetary nebula like the Helix Nebula emit across a similar, broad spectrum from ultraviolet to infrared. The image shown at the top uses a combination of ultraviolet radiation collected by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer ((GALEX in blue(0.15 to 2.3 microns)) and infrared light detected by their Spitzer Space Telescope ((red(8 to 24 microns) and green(3.6 to 4.5 microns)) and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer ((WISE in red(3.4 to 4.5 microns)) showing the subtle differences observed in the different wavelengths of light emitted by ghostly celestial objects like NGC 7293 and NGC 6369 (The Little Ghost). 

Dust makes this cosmic eye look red. This eerie Spitzer Space Telescope image shows infrared radiation from the well-studied Helix Nebula (NGC 7293), which is a mere 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula, representing the final stages in the evolution of a sun-like star. Spitzer data show the nebula's central star is itself immersed in a surprisingly bright infrared glow. Models suggest the glow is produced by a dust debris disk. Even though the nebular material was ejected from the star many thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could be generated by collisions in a reservoir of objects analogous to our own solar system's Kuiper Belt or cometary Oort cloud. Formed in the distant planetary system, the comet-like bodies have otherwise survived even the dramatic late stages of the star's evolution. Image credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Kate Su (Steward Obs, U. Arizona) et al.
Dust makes this cosmic eye look red. This eerie Spitzer Space Telescope image shows infrared radiation from the well-studied Helix Nebula (NGC 7293), which is a mere 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. The two light-year diameter shroud of dust and gas around a central white dwarf has long been considered an excellent example of a planetary nebula, representing the final stages in the evolution of a sun-like star.
Spitzer data show the nebula’s central star is itself immersed in a surprisingly bright infrared glow. Models suggest the glow is produced by a dust debris disk. Even though the nebular material was ejected from the star many thousands of years ago, the close-in dust could be generated by collisions in a reservoir of objects analogous to our own solar system’s Kuiper Belt or cometary Oort cloud. Formed in the distant planetary system, the comet-like bodies have otherwise survived even the dramatic late stages of the star’s evolution.
Image credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, Kate Su (Steward Obs, U. Arizona) et al.

Astronomers have studied planetary nebulae like the Helix Nebula and M2-9 (Wings of a Butterfly Nebula) as much as any recorded during the human journey to the beginning of space and time. The remnant of a rapidly evolving star near the end of its lifespan, the white dwarf star is a tiny, barely perceptible point of light at the center of the nebula in this composite image. Thousands of planetary nebula have been detected within a distance of about 100 million light-years of Earth and astronomers estimate about 10,000 exist in the Milky Way. Making planetary nebula a relatively common celestial mystery observed as we trace our roots to their beginning. 

Watch this YouTube video on the Helix Nebula.

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This collage of planetary nebula images was put together by NASA technicians to express the beauty and wonder of planetary nebula. Credits: NASA

Read and learn about the icy blue wings of planetary nebula Hen 2-437.

Read about planetary nebula Menzel 2.

Learn about the last days of planetary nebula Hen 2-362.

Learn more about the Helix Nebula here

Read and learn more about planetary nebulae

Join the space journey of NASA here

Learn more about NASA’s GALEX

Discover the Spitzer Space Telescope here

Read and discover more about NGC 6369. 

Learn more about what NASA’s WISE has discovered about the infrared cosmos here

Discover the Wings of a Butterfly Nebula.  

Aquarius

The Water Bearer’s jar fills the Celestial Sea

As is the case with all of the Zodiac constellations, Aquarius was recorded in the second century by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Its name means
As is the case with all of the Zodiac constellations, Aquarius was recorded in the second century by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy. Its name means “cup bearer” or “water bearer” in Latin.

Space & Astronomy Wiki – the constellations in the sky –

One of the first constellations in the night sky to be perceived the human eyes, Aquarius the Water Bearer was first recorded by Babylonian astronomers as “the Great One” on stones and official seals as early as the year 2000 BCE.

In ancient Babylon, Aquarius, the Water Bearer, ruled over a huge area of the sky known as The Sea. These were the fertilizing 'upper waters' of the ...
In ancient Babylon, Aquarius, the Water Bearer, ruled over a huge area of the sky known as The Sea. These were the fertilizing ‘upper waters’ of the …

Located in the fourth quadrant between latitude 65-90, Aquarius the Water Bearer is the 10th largest constellation covering 980 square degrees of the night sky.

Between the Great Square of Pegasus and the Bandanna of Capricornus lies the rather nondescript constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.
Between the Great Square of Pegasus and the Bandanna of Capricornus lies the rather nondescript constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.

Found near Cetus (the whale), Pisces (the fish), Delphinus (the dolphin) and Eridanus (the river) on the Sea of the Southern sky, Aquarius the Water Bearer is best viewed in the evening sky in the Southern Hemisphere in spring and autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

Look high in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere sky early in October around 10 p.m. local time (11 p.m. local daylight saving time), or early in November around 8 p.m. local time, to best see Aquarius the Water Bearer.

This unaided eye constellation sky map has the following limits: Stars shown for brighter than 6 limiting magnitude, Star names labels shown for stars brighter than 4 limiting magnitude, Bayer/Flamsteed code labels shown for stars brighter than 5 limiting magnitude, Deep sky objects shown for objects brighter than 6 limiting magnitude.
This unaided eye constellation sky map has the following limits: Stars shown for brighter than 6 limiting magnitude, Star names label shown for stars brighter than 4 limiting magnitude, Bayer/Flamsteed code labels shown for stars brighter than 5 limiting magnitude, Deep sky objects shown for objects brighter than 6 limiting magnitude.

Look for four bright stars outlining a person with an overflowing vessel pouring water in the form of faint stars into the mouth of the star Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus the Southern Fish.

This is Aquarius the Water Bearer!

You can learn more about the constellation Aquarius here.

Learn about the reasons some galaxy clusters formless stars than others.

Learn about the way stars like our Sun become main sequence stars.

Learn more about the weird and wonderful planets found in the planet zoo.

The Planets Dance Across September’s Night Sky

September astronomy rocks!

Astronomy News – September is one of the year’s most entertaining and awe-inspiring months to lay on your back on a dark hill and view the delights of the celestial dance in the sky as your ancestors did on a nightly basis. Four of Sol’s dance partners will be in the spotlight in September 2010, taking part in a nightly dance that includes their less observable brothers and sisters, while Mercury will once again dance privately in the eastern sky each morning during September.

Jupiter will be spectacular to view during September
Mighty Jupiter rules the night sky in September 2010

Mighty Jupiter is astronomy royalty

Mighty Jupiter will rule the night’s sky in the Northern Hemisphere during September, especially after he reaches the point in his orbit opposite the sun as seen from SpaceshipEarth1, which space scientists call Jupiter’s opposition. This celestial event will occur on the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, on this day the 24 hour period of the day will be evenly separated into night and day, and the evening temperature will still be warm enough to make star-gazing comfortable. The perfect time to set up your celestial time machine to the stars or to just lay back on the cold Earth and watch the celestial dance above you unfold before your eyes as millions of your ancestors have since mankind first perceived the possibilities the night’s sky creates in the human imagination. This will be the most comfortable and best time to view Jupiter in the past 47 years and it will definitely be more comfortable viewing than during Jupiter’s next opposition on October 29, 2011. During Jupiter’s opposition on October 29, 2011, the weather will be a lot of colder than on September 21, 2010, and you’ll have to wait another year to have a look at the largest planet in our solar system.

Mighty Jupiter will be at his brightest when he reaches opposition on September 21, 2010, on this night the King of Sol’s planets will shine brighter in the night’s sky than during any time in the past 47 years. Jupiter will also appear bigger during its September 21, 2010, opposition, subtending an angle of almost 50 “, and shining at magnitude 2.9. This means that after Venus sets at around 8 P.M., mighty Jupiter will be the brightest star-like object in September’s night sky.

Viewing Venus is astronomy fun for all
Venus fluctuates in visible size in September

Astronomy is for lovers

Mighty Jupiter will travel near the border between the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces for several months on both sides of opposition. This region of space-time has few bright stars to outshine Jupiter and the contrast allows viewers to get a good look at Jupiter. The nearest 1st magnitude star, Fomalhaut (Alpha) Piscis Austrini, is over 30 degrees away and mighty Jupiter is easily observed in the night’s sky at this time.

Stargazers in the mid-northern latitudes will find that due to their location mighty Jupiter only climbs halfway up the night’s sky in September 2010. This doesn’t make for the best viewing during Jupiter’s opposition and Jupiter’s altitude will be at its greatest at local midnight time. Stargazers at latitude 40 degrees north will see Jupiter at 48 degrees above the southern horizon. In the northern hemisphere of Earth, star gazers will view Jupiter 1 degree higher in the night’s sky, for each degree of latitude south of 40 degrees north at which they’re viewing Jupiter. In contrast, for each 1 degree north of 40 degrees north at which you observe Jupiter, you’ll see Jupiter 1 degree lower in the night’s sky.

Stargazers that want to view mighty Jupiter as he dances across September’s night sky can so without a pair of binoculars. Stargazers will need a pair of binoculars or telescope to see Uranus, Sol’s seventh planet will lie within 2 degrees of Jupiter throughout September, and can be difficult to view Uranus at this time. Sol’s eighth planet, Neptune, will be found about 30 degrees west of Jupiter and Uranus during September. Stargazers that want to view Venus and Mars should look in the evening twilight near Virgo’s brightest star, Spica.

Neptune is steak and potatoes for the hungry astronomy lover
Neptune can be found 30 degrees west of Jupiter and Saturn in September’s night sky

Planet astronomy is exciting and something that fills a young mind with awe

We’ll begin our journey across September’s night sky during the first week of Earth’s ninth month, Saturn will be dancing in the twilight of the low horizon of September’s night sky. We’ll board our time machine to the stars and planets on September 1 and start the first leg of our celestial “Journey to the Beginning of Time and Space” in human terms by traveling across space and time to Saturn. Sol’s ringed planet will set an hour after the sun on this day and can be found dancing in the sky about 5 degrees above the horizon after the sun goes down.

Venus and Mars can be found dancing in the evening twilight close to Spica in the constellation Virgo

To locate Saturn, use Venus as your visual guide. Earth’s evening star will be visible a few minutes after the sunsets. Look for Spica in the constellation Virgo, to the right of Venus. Saturn and Spica glow at the same relative magnitude, so if you take your time and can find Spica, you should be able to see Saturn in the night’s sky above you. Saturn will be found 20 degrees to the right of Venus in September’s night sky and at around half the distance from the horizon as Venus. Saturn will continue to be viewable from Earth, throughout the first week of September 2010, and observing Saturn from SpaceshipEarth1 will become increasingly difficult after this time.

On September 1, 2010, Venus will be dancing in the night’s sky in line with Spica and Mars. Spica will be in the middle of this dance, and if you continue to watch this celestial dance unfold for two more nights, Spica will dance toward the center of the trio. The trio will begin to fall back from each other as September enters the second week and will form an ever-widening triangle. Venus will shine the brightest during this celestial dance across September’s night sky while Spica will outshine Mars as the trio does their nightly dance across the skies of September.

On September 10 a crescent moon will join this celestial dance. Mars will be viewable about 6 degrees above the Moon while Venus will be to the lower left of Mars. Continue to watch this dance unfold and you’ll see the Moon travel 6 degrees to the left of Venus by the time September 11, 2010, arrives. The Moon will also grow in visible size each night after September 11, 2010, until reaching full moon at 5:17 A.M. EDT on September 23.

Venus is one of the most recognized planets of astronomy

Venus will continue to be viewable in September’s night sky as she dips closer to the horizon each night during September. Venus will shine her brightest on September 23, 2110, when the evening star will shine at magnitude 4,8 and will set an hour after Sol retires for the night. Watch Venus during this time and she’ll draw you into her nightly dance and fascinate you as she goes through obvious changes in visible size and phase. View Venus on September 1 and you’ll see a planet with a disc 29 ” across and at 41 percent illumination. By the time the dance reaches September 30, Venus has slimmed to 19 percent illumination and swelled to about 45 “, a change that can be easily discerned by patient stargazers.

Mars will appear small and dim compared to the Evening Star, the Red Planet will shine at magnitude 1.5 throughout September 2010, which is around 300 times dimmer than Venus will shine. Mar’s disk also measures only 4″ and very little detail will be seen by viewers looking at Mars through a telescope. Mars will become more visible late in 2011, so if you want to have the best view of Mars, you’ll have to wait until this time.

September will be a great time to view Sol’s ninth planet though as Pluto will dance an elegant loop in northwestern Sagittarius, close to an 8th magnitude star that’s only 2.6 degrees north-northwest of 4th magnitude Mu Sagittarii. This will make this 14th magnitude dwarf planet, which some claim isn’t really a planet, easier to view due to its proximity to this relatively bright star. You’ll still require an 8-inch telescope and a dark sky to be able to see Pluto in September’s night sky, but the view is spectacular, and you can get a good idea of the distance involved.

Astronomy is in the human soul

Read about the present news on the search for life beyond Earth https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/25/the-search-for-life-beyond-earth-takes-a-turn-at-jupiter/.

View the latest in high definition images of the solar system provided by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/cassini-spacecraft-show-views-of-the-solar-system-in-natural-color/.

We tell you about the astronomy highlights upcoming for 2014 https://spaceshipearth1.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/2014-the-journey-ahead/.