This is an image I took from my front yard Wednesday night (May 25, 2005).
The object to the right of center is the cunningly named “Ring Nebula” in Lyra (M57).
The Ring is a doughnut shaped ring of gas which was believed to have been blown off by a star a bit larger then our sun about 6 to 8 thousand years ago. The remains of the star, now no larger then a planet, is still barely visible in the center of the ring (but unfortunately not in this image—this type of star is called a “White Dwarf”). The ring is estimated to be 2,300 Light Years away and still expanding at a rate of about 20 miles per second (that’s 72,000 miles per hour, and would imply that its present diameter is on the order of ten trillion miles). The ring is believed to glow due to ultraviolet light given off by the central star. For much more info, see http://www.seds.org/messier/m/m057.html .
Image built from 8 15 second exposures taken using an Atik 2HS camera, through a 80mm F5 Refractor. Stacked in K3CCDOPS, post-processed in Jasc Paintshop.