A mere seven hundred light years from Earth, in the constellation Aquarius, a sun-like star is dying.
Its last few thousand years have produced the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293), a well studied and nearby example of a Planetary Nebula, typical of this final phase of stellar evolution. A total of 58 hours of exposure time … shows remarkable details of the Helix’s brighter inner region, about 3 light-years across, but also follows fainter outer halo features that give the nebula a span of well over six light-years.
The white dot at the Helix’s center is this Planetary Nebula’s hot, central star. A simple looking nebula at first glance, the Helix is now understood to have a surprisingly complex geometry.
SEE COMPLETE TEXT