M97- the Owl Nebula

The Owl Nebula is perched in the sky about 2,600 light-years away toward the bottom of the Big Dipper's bowl. Also cataloged as M97, the 97th object in Messier's well-known list, its round shape along with the placement of two large, dark "eyes" do suggest the face of a staring owl. One of the fainter objects in Messier's catalog, the Owl Nebula is a planetary nebula, the glowing gaseous envelope shed by a dying sun-like star as it runs out of nuclear fuel. In fact, the Owl Nebula offers an example of the fate of our Sun as it runs out of fuel in another 5 billion years. As we see it, the nebula spans over 2 light-years making it roughly 2,000 times the diameter of Neptune's orbit. This image, taken February 9 and 11, 2010 is 2 hours of RGB data and 1 hour of hydrogen-alpha exposure. This image was taken with the Hyperion telescope with the SBIG-STL11000 camera on a Paramount platform. Click on the image to see more detail.

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