M27 - The Dumbbell Nebula
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M-27 is "Planetary Nebula". This has nothing to do with planets. What we observe is a "shell" of glowing gas ejected by a mid-size star just before it burns out. The shell occupies a roughly spherical space around the star and so occupies "planetary" space there. The gas glows because it is being ionized by the radiation still coming from the dying star (sort of like a neon sign). In time, the central star burns up the last of its fuel and shrinks to a dwarf. The gas then stops glowing, and drifts off into interstellar space - where it may combine with other such clouds and become the raw materials for another star or whole solar system.

Imager: SBIG ST2000XM/CFW8 at prime focus on a 12" LX200 telescope.
74 images stacked - luminosity channel in Ha.

One of the raw frames used to build up the final image.

See the Image Processing page to learn more about this process.