5 October 2016 | ‘Eye of God’

Helix Nebula

Credit: Dide van den Heuvel | Click image to enlarge

 

There was an email going around a few years ago talking about “the Eye of God” claiming the capture of a rare event that only occurs every 3000 years. The accompanying photo was an image of the Helix Nebula like you see before you and this eye-like nebula is actually one of the most iconic celestial images in astronomy.

The Helix Nebula, also known as The Helix or NGC 7293, is a large planetary nebula (PN) located in the constellation Aquarius. Discovered by Karl Ludwig Harding, probably before 1824, this object is one of the closest to the Earth of all the bright planetary nebulae. The estimated distance is about 215 parsecs (700 light-years). It is similar in appearance to the Cat’s Eye Nebula and the Ring Nebula, whose size, age, and physical characteristics are similar to the Dumbbell Nebula, varying only in its relative proximity and the appearance from the equatorial viewing angle.

The Helix Nebula in the constellation of Aquarius lies about 700 light-years away, spanning about 0.8 parsecs (2.5 light-years). Currently, the age is estimated to be around 10.600 years, based solely upon a measured expansion rate of 31 km/s.

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