A New Twist on an Old Nebula

A New Twist on an Old Nebula

NASA image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the Helix Nebula, NGC 7293, sometimes referred to as the “Eye of God” nebula. Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University)

*Description*: This composite image is a view of the colorful Helix Nebula taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Mosaic II Camera on the 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The object is so large that both telescopes were needed to capture a complete view. The Helix is a planetary nebula, the glowing gaseous envelope expelled by a dying, sun-like star. The Helix resembles a simple doughnut as seen from Earth. But looks can be deceiving. New evidence suggests that the Helix consists of two gaseous disks nearly perpendicular to each other. One possible scenario for the Helix’s complex structure is that the dying star has a companion star. One disk may be perpendicular to the dying star’s spin axis, while the other may lie in the orbital plane of the two stars. The Helix, located 690 light-years away, is one of the closest planetary nebulas to Earth. The Hubble images were taken on November 19, 2002; the Cerro Tololo images on Sept. 17-18, 2003. Technical facts about this news release: About the Object Object Name: Helix Nebula, NGC 7293 Object Description: Planetary Nebula Position (J2000): R.A. 22h 29m 48.20s Dec. -20° 49′ 26.0″ Constellation: Aquarius Distance: About 690 light-years (213 parsecs) Dimensions: The image is roughly 287 arcminutes (5.6 light-years or 1.7 parsecs) across. About the Data Data Description: The HST data are from proposal 9700. Processed images may be obtained from the Helix MAST web site [ http://archive.stsci.edu/hst/helix ]. The Hubble Helix Team includes M. Meixner, H.E. Bond, G. Chapman (STScI), Y.-H. Chu (U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), P. Cox (Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, France), W. Crothers, L.M. Frattare, R.Gilliland (STScI), M. Guerrero R. Gruendl (U. Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), F. Hamilton, (STScI), R.Hook (STScI/ESO), P. Huggins (New York Univ.), I. Jordan, C.D. Keyes, A. Koekemoer (STScI), K.Kwitter (Williams College), Z.G. Levay, P.R. McCullough, M. Mutchler, K. Noll (STScI), C.R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University), N. Panagia, M. Reinhart, M. Robberto, K. Sahu, D. Soderblom, L. Stanghellini, C. Tyler, J. Valenti, A. Welty, R. Williams (STScI). The CTIO data were taken by C.R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University) and L.M. Frattare (STScI). The science team includes C.R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University), P.R. McCullough and M. Meixner (STScI). Instrument: ACS/WFC Mosaic II Camera on CTIO 4m telescope Exposure Date(s): November 19, 2002 September 17/18, 2003 Exposure Time: 4.5 hours 10 minutes Filters: F502N ([O III]), F658N (Ha) c6009 (H alpha), kc6014 ([O III]) About the Image Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and C.R. O’Dell (Vanderbilt University) Release Date: December 16, 2004 Orientation: Helix Nebula As Seen By Hubble and the Cerro Toledo Inter-American Observatory [ http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2004/32/images/b/formats/compass_large_web.jpg ] *News Release Number:*: STScI-2004-32d

NASA Identifier: SPD-HUBBLE-STScI-2004-32d

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