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Astronomy Picture of the Day
Search Results for "M57"




Found 32 items.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 August 14 – The Ring Nebula from Webb and Hubble
Explanation: The Ring Nebula (M57), is more complicated than it appears through a small telescope. The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkable combined exposure by the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope explores this popular nebula with deep exposures in visible and infrared light. Strings of gas, like eyelashes around a cosmic eye, become evident around the Ring in this digitally enhanced featured image in assigned colors. These long filaments may be caused by shadowing of knots of dense gas in the ring from energetic light emitted within. The Ring Nebula is an elongated planetary nebula, a type of gas cloud created when a Sun-like star evolves to throw off its outer atmosphere to become a white dwarf star. The central oval in the Ring Nebula lies about 2,500 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 April 3 – The Galactic Center Radio Arc
Explanation: What causes this unusual curving structure near the center of our Galaxy? The long parallel rays slanting across the top of the featured radio image are known collectively as the Galactic Center Radio Arc and point out from the Galactic plane. The Radio Arc is connected to the Galactic Center by strange curving filaments known as the Arches. The bright radio structure at the bottom right surrounds a black hole at the Galactic Center and is known as Sagittarius A*. One origin hypothesis holds that the Radio Arc and the Arches have their geometry because they contain hot plasma flowing along lines of a constant magnetic field. Images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory appear to show this plasma colliding with a nearby cloud of cold gas.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2023 April 2 – M57: The Ring Nebula from Hubble
Explanation: It was noticed hundreds of years ago by stargazers who could not understand its unusual shape. It looked like a ring on the sky. Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) may be the most famous celestial circle. We now know what it is, and that its iconic shape is due to our lucky perspective. The recent mapping of the expanding nebula's 3-D structure, based in part on this clear Hubble image,indicates that the nebula is a relatively dense, donut-like ring wrapped around the middle of an (American) football-shaped cloud of glowing gas. Our view from planet Earth looks down the long axis of the football, face-on to the ring. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from the dying, once sun-like star, now a tiny pinprick of light seen at the nebula's center. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,500 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 August 18 - Rings Around the Ring Nebula
Explanation: The Ring Nebula (M57), is more complicated than it appears through a small telescope. The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. This composite image includes red light emitted by hydrogen as well as visible and infrared light. The Ring Nebula is an elongated planetary nebula, a type of nebula created when a Sun-like star evolves to throw off its outer atmosphere to become a white dwarf star. The Ring Nebula is about 2,500 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 August 17 - M57: The Ring Nebula from Hubble
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial circle. Its classic appearance is understood to be due to our own perspective, though. The recent mapping of the expanding nebula's 3-D structure, based in part on this clear Hubble image,indicates that the nebula is a relatively dense, donut-like ring wrapped around the middle of a (American) football-shaped cloud of glowing gas. The view from planet Earth looks down the long axis of the football, face-on to the ring. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from the dying, once sun-like star, now a tiny pinprick of light seen at the nebula's center. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,500 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 July 26 - CG4: A Ruptured Cometary Globule
Explanation: Can a gas cloud grab a galaxy? It's not even close. The "claw" of this odd looking "creature" in the featured photo is a gas cloud known as a cometary globule. This globule, however, has ruptured. Cometary globules are typically characterized by dusty heads and elongated tails. These features cause cometary globules to have visual similarities to comets, but in reality they are very much different. Globules are frequently the birthplaces of stars, and many show very young stars in their heads. The reason for the rupture in the head of this object is not yet known. The galaxy to the left of the globule is huge, very far in the distance, and only placed near CG4 by chance superposition.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 July 21 - Colors: Ring Nebula versus Stars
Explanation: What if you could see, separately, all the colors of the Ring? And of the surrounding stars? There's technology for that. The featured image shows the Ring Nebula (M57) and nearby stars through such technology: in this case, a prism-like diffraction grating. The Ring Nebula is seen only a few times because it emits light, primarily, in only a few colors. The two brightest emitted colors are hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue), appearing as nearly overlapping images to the left of the image center. The image just to the right of center is the color-combined icon normally seen. Stars, on the other hand, emit most of their light in colors all across the visible spectrum. These colors, combined, make a nearly continuous streak -- which is why stars appear accompanied by multicolored bars. Breaking object light up into colors is scientifically useful because it can reveal the elements that compose that object, how fast that object is moving, and how distant that object is.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 July 15 - Rings Around the Ring Nebula
Explanation: There is much more to the familiar Ring Nebula (M57), however, than can be seen through a small telescope. The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. This remarkable composite image includes narrowband hydrogen image, visible light emission, and infrared light emission. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. The Ring Nebula is about 2,000 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 April 17 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. Its classic appearance is understood to be due to our own perspective, though. The recent mapping of the expanding nebula's 3-D structure, based in part on this clear Hubble image,indicates that the nebula is a relatively dense, donut-like ring wrapped around the middle of a (American) football-shaped cloud of glowing gas. The view from planet Earth looks down the long axis of the football, face-on to the ring. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from the dying, once sun-like star, now a tiny pinprick of light seen at the nebula's center. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 August 13 - Rings Around the Ring Nebula
Explanation: It is a familiar sight to sky enthusiasts with even a small telescope. There is much more to the Ring Nebula (M57), however, than can be seen through a small telescope. The easily visible central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different large telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. This remarkable composite image includes narrowband hydrogen image, visible light emission, and infrared light emission. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. The Ring Nebula is about 2,000 light-years away toward the musical constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 June 5 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. Its classic appearance is understood to be due to our own perspective, though. The recent mapping of the expanding nebula's 3-D structure, based in part on this clear Hubble image, indicates that the nebula is a relatively dense, donut-like ring wrapped around the middle of a football-shaped cloud of glowing gas. The view from planet Earth looks down the long axis of the football, face-on to the ring. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from the dying, once sun-like star, now a tiny pinprick of light seen at the nebula's center. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas. In the picture, the blue color in the center is ionized helium, the cyan color of the inner ring is the glow of hydrogen and oxygen, and the reddish color of the outer ring is from nitrogen and sulfur. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 September 15 - Ring Nebula Drawn
Explanation: A planetary nebula with a simple symmetry familiar to telescopic sky gazers, the Ring Nebula (M57) is some 2,000 light-years away in the musical constellation Lyra. Hints of changing colors and subtle details are brought out in this remarkable sketch of the cosmic ring. The sketch was made with 800x magnification and excellent seeing conditions directly at the eyepiece of a 40 inch reflecting telescope. Colored pencils on white paper were used to create the original drawing, shown here digitally scanned with an inverted palette applied. About one light-year across, the nebula is composed of outer layers expelled from a dying, once sun-like star. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas and powers the nebular glow. Ionized hydrogen adds a reddish tint. Ionized oxygen produces a characteristic blue-green color. Difficult to see under average conditions with small telescopes, the Ring Nebula's central star was visible at all times during the artist's study.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 April 20 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. Its classic appearance is understood to be due to perspective - our view from planet Earth looks down the center of a roughly barrel-shaped cloud of glowing gas. But expansive looping structures are seen to extend far beyond the Ring Nebula's familiar central regions in this intriguing composite of ground based and Hubble Space Telescope images with narrowband image data from Subaru. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from the dying, once sun-like star at the nebula's center. Intense ultraviolet light from the hot central star ionizes atoms in the gas. Ionized oxygen atoms produce the characteristic greenish glow and ionized hydrogen the prominent red emission. The central ring of the Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away. To accompany tonight's shooting stars it shines in the northern constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 February 18 - Planetary Nebula Project
Explanation: Cast off by dying sunlike stars, planetary nebulae are a brief but glorious final phase of stellar evolution. The gaseous shrouds are ionized by an extremely hot central source, the shrinking core of a star running out of fuel for nuclear fusion. Shining in the cosmic night, their simple symmetries are fascinating and have inspired this planetary nebula poster project. In it, nine planetaries are displayed for comparison in a 3x3 grid. Of course, planetary nebula fans should be able to pick out the bright Messier objects M27 - the Dumbbell Nebula, M76 - the Little Dumbbell, and M57 - the Ring Nebula, as well as NGC 6543, aka the Cat's Eye Nebula. Lesser known nebulae include the Medusa and the Bug. All the images were made with detailed narrow band data and are shown at the same angular scale, spanning 20 arc minutes (1/3 degree). At that scale, the grey circle represents the apparent size of the Full Moon. These planetary nebulae hint at the fate of our own Sun as its core runs out of nuclear fuel in another 5 billion years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 November 15 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: It looks like a ring on the sky. Hundreds of years ago astronomers noticed a nebula with a most unusual shape. Now known as M57 or NGC 6720, the gas cloud became popularly known as the Ring Nebula. It is now known to be a planetary nebula, a gas cloud emitted at the end of a Sun-like star's existence. As one of the brightest planetary nebula on the sky, the Ring Nebula can be seen with a small telescope in the constellation of Lyra. The Ring Nebula lies about 4,000 light years away, and is roughly 500 times the diameter of our Solar System. In this picture by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1998, dust filaments and globules are visible far from the central star. This helps indicate that the Ring Nebula is not spherical, but cylindrical.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 November 6 - Ring Nebula Deep Field
Explanation: A familiar sight to sky enthusiasts with even a small telescope, the Ring Nebula (M57) is some 2,000 light-years away in the musical constellation Lyra. The central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from three different telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. This remarkable composite image includes narrowband image data recording the Ring's atomic hydrogen emission (shown as violet) in visible light and molecular hydrogen emission (shown as red) at near infrared wavelengths. The much more distant spiral galaxy IC 1296 is also visible at the upper right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 September 18 - Exploring the Ring
Explanation: A familiar sight for northern hemisphere astronomers, the Ring Nebula (M57) is some 2,000 light-years away in the musical constellation Lyra. The central ring is about one light-year across, but this remarkably deep exposure - a collaborative effort combining data from two different telescopes - explores the looping filaments of glowing gas extending much farther from the nebula's central star. Of course, in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. This composite image includes over 16 hours of narrow-band data intended to record the red emission from hydrogen atoms, but the pronounced blue/green color is due to emission from oxygen atoms at higher temperatures within the ring. The much more distant spiral galaxy IC 1296 is also visible at the upper right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 June 25 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: It looked like a ring on the sky. Hundreds of years ago astronomers noticed a nebula with a most unusual shape. Now known as M57 or NGC 6720, the gas cloud became popularly known as the Ring Nebula. It is now known to be a planetary nebula, a gas cloud emitted at the end of a Sun-like star's existence. As one of the brightest planetary nebula on the sky, the Ring Nebula can be seen with a small telescope in the constellation of Lyra. The Ring Nebula lies about 4,000 light years away, and is roughly 500 times the diameter of our Solar System. In this recent picture by the Hubble Space Telescope, dust filaments and globules are visible far from the central star. This helps indicate that the Ring Nebula is not spherical, but cylindrical.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 May 12 - Comet Meets Ring Nebula: Part II
Explanation: Moving rapidly through planet Earth's night sky, Fragment C of crumbling comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 passed almost directly in front of M57 - the Ring Nebula, and faint spiral galaxy IC 1296 on May 8. In fact, in this gorgeous view, the bright head of Fragment C is separated by only about 0.1 degrees from M57, with the tail apparently engulfing nebula and galaxy. Recorded from Elizabeth, Illinois, USA, this picture corresponds to the cosmic scene only 30 minutes after yesterday's picture of the approaching alignment. The relative motion of the comet against the background stars and nebulae is easy to see when comparing the two images. This comet's fragments will be near their closest approach in the coming days, about 10 million kilometers away, and none pose any danger to our fair planet.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 May 11 - Comet Meets Ring Nebula: Part I
Explanation: As dawn approached on May 8, astronomer Stefan Seip carefully watched Fragment C of broken comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 approach M57 - the Ring Nebula, and faint spiral galaxy IC 1296. Of course, even though the trio seemed to come close together in a truly cosmic photo opportunity, the comet is in the inner part of our solar system, a mere 0.5 light-minutes or so from Seip's telescope located near Stuttgart, Germany, planet Earth. The Ring Nebula (upper right) is more like 2,000 light-years distant, well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. At a distance of 200 million light-years, IC 1296 (between comet and ring) is beyond even the Milky Way's boundaries. Because the comet is so close, it appears to move relatively rapidly against the distant stars. This dramatic telescopic view was composited from two sets of images; one compensating for the comet's apparent motion and one recording the background stars and nebulae.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 July 23 - Ringed Nebulae
Explanation: This gorgeous celestial vista is centered on one of the Milky Way's own planetary nebulae, M57, the famous Ring Nebula. The wide view is a composite of three exposures; one to record the details of the inner roughly one light-year span of the familiar nebula, one to record the surprisingly intricate but faint outer rings of glowing hydrogen gas, and one to pick up the rich assortment of distant background galaxies. By chance, one of the background galaxies, IC 1296 at the upper left, is close enough to show its barred, spiral structure making an attractive visual comparison with M57. Interestingly, though IC 1296 is 200 million light-years away compared to only 2 thousand light-years for M57, a faint ring is also apparent around the outer reaches of the distant spiral galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 March 11 - Infrared Ring Nebula
Explanation: The classic appearance of the popular Ring Nebula (aka M57) is understood to be due to perspective - our view from planet Earth looks down the center of a roughly barrel-shaped cloud of gas. But graceful looping structures are seen to extend even beyond the Ring Nebula's familiar central regions in this false-color infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Of course in this well-studied example of a planetary nebula, the glowing material does not come from planets. Instead, the gaseous shroud represents outer layers expelled from a dying, sun-like star. By chance, spiral galaxy IC 1296 is also visible in the upper right of this Spitzer view toward the constellation Lyra. The central ring of the Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away. However, galaxy IC 1296 much bigger and hence farther away ... about 200 million light-years distant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 July 9 - Ringed Nebulae
Explanation: Have you heard a lot about ringed planets lately? Well, consider this gorgeous celestial vista centered on the Milky Way's own planetary nebula M57, the famous Ring Nebula. The wide view is a composite of three exposures; one to record the details of the inner roughly one light-year span of the familiar nebula, one to record the surprisingly intricate but faint outer rings of glowing hydrogen gas, and one to pick up the rich assortment of distant background galaxies. By chance, one of the background galaxies, IC 1296 at the upper left, is close enough to show its barred, spiral structure making an attractive visual comparison with M57. Interestingly, though IC 1296 is 200 million light-years away compared to only 2 thousand light-years for M57, a faint ring is also apparent around the outer reaches of the distant spiral galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 July 4 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Astronomers of the Hubble Heritage Project produced this strikingly sharp image from Hubble Space Telescope observations using natural appearing colors to indicate the temperature of the stellar gas shroud. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 May 16 - A Tale of Two Nebulae
Explanation: This colorful telescopic view towards the northern constellation Lyra reveals dim outer regions around M57, popularly known as the Ring Nebula. While modern astronomers still refer to M57 as a planetary nebula, at one light-year across M57 is not a planet but the gaseous shroud of a dying sun-like star. Roughly the same apparent size as M57, the fainter, often overlooked barred spiral galaxy IC1296 is at the lower right and would have been referred to in the early 20th century as a spiral nebula. By chance the pair are in the same field of view, and while they appear to have similar sizes they are actually very far apart. M57 lies at a distance of a mere 2,000 light-years, well within our own Milky Way galaxy. Extragalactic IC1296 is more like 200,000,000 light-years distant or about 100,000 times farther away. Since they appear roughly similar in size, spiral nebula IC1296 must also be about 100,000 times larger than planetary nebula M57.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 March 22 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Astronomers of the Hubble Heritage Project produced this strikingly sharp image from Hubble Space Telescope observations using natural appearing colors to indicate the temperature of the stellar gas shroud. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 July 29 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, the Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Astronomers of the Hubble Heritage Project produced this strikingly sharp image from Hubble Space Telescope observations using natural appearing colors to indicate the temperature of the stellar gas shroud. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 July 16 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: Except for the rings of Saturn, The Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Astronomers of the Hubble Heritage Project produced this strikingly sharp image from Hubble Space Telescope observations using natural appearing colors to indicate the temperature of the stellar gas shroud. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: September 22, 1999 - Halos Around the Ring Nebula
Explanation: What's happened to the Ring Nebula? The familiar Ring that can be seen with a small back-yard telescope takes on a new look when viewed in dim light. The above recently-released, false-color image taken by the giant Subaru Telescope shows details of giant halos of diffuse gas that are seen to envelop the entire structure. The Ring Nebula, also known as M57, is an elongated planetary nebula, a type of nebula that is created when a Sun-like star evolves to throw off its outer atmosphere and becomes a white dwarf. The Ring Nebula is about 2000 light-years away, and the main ring spans about one light-year. The origin and future evolution of the Ring Nebula's outer halos is still being investigated.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 7, 1999 - The Ring
Explanation: Except for the Rings of Saturn, The Ring Nebula (M57) is probably the most famous celestial band. This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Astronomers of the Hubble Heritage Project produced this strikingly sharp image from Space Telescope observations using natural appearing colors to indicate the temperature of the stellar gas shroud. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge. The Ring Nebula is about one light-year across and 2,000 light-years away in the northern constellation Lyra.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 4, 1998 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: It looked like a ring on the sky. Hundreds of years ago astronomers noticed a nebula with a most unusual shape. Now known as M57 or NGC 6720, the gas cloud became popularly known as the Ring Nebula. It is now know to be a planetary nebula, a gas cloud emitted at the end of a Sun-like star's existence. As one of the brightest planetary nebula on the sky, the Ring Nebula can be seen with a small telescope in the constellation of Lyra. The Ring Nebula lies about 4000 light years away, and is roughly 500 times the diameter of our Solar System. In this recent picture by the Hubble Space Telescope, dust filaments and globules are visible far from the central star. This helps indicate that the Ring Nebula is not spherical, but cylindrical. Perhaps the Ring Nebula would appear differently if viewed sideways.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 27, 1995 - M57: The Ring Nebula
Explanation: A star with mass similar to that of our Sun will throw off its outer gasses after fusion has stopped in its core. Possibly the most visually spectacular of these planetary nebula is the pictured Ring Nebula. The appearance as a ring is really an illusion of projection - the nebula is actually a spherical shell. At the center a blue dot is visible which is the old core of the star, known as a white dwarf. It is still not known exactly how the star throws off the gas that becomes the nebula.


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