Helix Nebula

The Helix is begging to appear in the early morning sky, so I am beginning to build up long exposures. The Helix Nebula is one of brightest and closest examples of a planetary nebula, a gas cloud created at the end of the life of a Sun-like star. The outer gasses of the star expelled into space appear from our vantage point as if we are looking down a helix. The remnant central stellar core, destined to become a white dwarf star, glows in light so energetic it causes the previously expelled gas to fluoresce. The Helix Nebula, given a technical designation of NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away towards the constellation of Aquarius and spans about 2.5 light-years. This image contains 14 hours of exposure with my Hyperion Astrograph. 8 hours is hydrogen-alpha data. I'll probably want double the current exposure to get the wealth of detail visible in this nebula. This image was taken on August 6, 11 and 12, 2010. It was guided by CCDAutoPilot 4.

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