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The Helix Nebula (NGC7293), 


            Terry Hancock

The Helix Nebula (NGC7293)


Captured over 5 nights from my backyard observatory in Western Michigan, NGC7293 known as The Helix Nebula and it's nickname "The Eye Of God" using RGB and H-Alpha filters. At barely 25 degrees above the southern horizon from my location the conditions for shooting this lovely planetary nebula are far from optimum. Nevertherless I felt the end result was more than satisfactory using the tiny TMB92SS 3.6" refractor, the image you see here is a mere 22% crop of the original full frame.
Total Exposure time 7 hours

Location: Downunder Observatory, Fremont MI
Date of Shoot Nov 29, Dec 3, 5 6 and 13th 2012
All exposures unbinned
H-Alpha 3nm 8 x 30 min
RGB 4 x 15 min each
Camera: QHY9M monochrome CCD cooled to -30C
Optics: Thomas M. Back TMB 92SS F5.5 APO Refractor
Mount: Paramount GT-1100S German Equatorial Mount (with MKS 4000)
Image Aquisition Maxim DL
Stacking and Calibrating: CCDStack
Registration of images in Registar
Post Processing Photoshop CS5
Star Spikes PRO2

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What are we looking at?
700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius lies the Helix Nebula. The Helix is a planetary nebula which are very short-lived structures that surround stars (similar to our own sun) for a brief period near the end of their lives.
As a low-mass main-sequence star burns through its stores of hydrogen, it begins fusing heavier elements. First, it begins fusing helium and during this phase, the pressures exerted outwards from the core overwhelm the ability of gravity to hold on to lighter material near the star's surface. The outer layers of the stars get puffed out by the core, like a balloon expanding. This is called the "Red Giant" phase. When the helium supply runs low, the star then begins fusing lithium. It repeats this cycle until the star's core is mostly carbon. With each successively heavier element, the temperatures and pressures grow until the the material outside of the core is simply expelled out into space. The molecules in the gaseous cloud are irradiated by the extreme temperatures of the star's core and the material glows like the gas in a fluorescent light. These cosmic fluorescent lightbulbs are clearly visible in the eyepiece of a quality telescope.



Terry Hancock
License: None (All rights reserved)


The Helix Nebula (NGC7293), 


            Terry Hancock