Image of M57 (the Ring Nebula) taken from Kensington Metropark, at Saturday’s “Astronomy on the Beach” event (September 10, 2005).
I photographed this object once before, but at lower magnification using a smaller Vixen S80 scope.
The ring nebula is basically the outer atmosphere of an aging star a bit larger then the sun, the core of which exploded about 6 to 8 thousand years ago, blowing most of the “starstuff” (hydrogen and helium gas, basically) into space (something our own sun will probably eventually do as well). What’s left of the star’s core is now an extremely hot “white dwarf” star, about the size of a planet and just visible in the photo, in the ring’s exact center (see detail)
The object is estimated to be about 2300 Light Years away (meaning we are now seeing it as it actually looked about 2300 years ago!) It is believed to be about 0.9 light years (5,500,000,000,000 miles) across and expanding at a rate of about a billion miles a year.
Equipment: ATik 2HS “Astro-Webcam”, Stellarvue 80/F9 scope, 2 cans Starbucks “Double Shot” Cappuccino.