The Helix Nebula

The Haunting Gaze of a Dying Star

Click on the above thumbnails to view

an annotated version and the full field of view

Helix Nebula (annotated)
Helix Nebula (annotated)
Helix Nebula (Full FOV)
Helix Nebula (Full FOV)

The Helix Nebula, dubbed the "Eye of God" due to its celestial resemblance to a celestial ocular, is a planetary nebula located in the constellation of Aquarius. Planetary nebulae like the Helix are formed when lower mass stars end their lives, slowly releasing its outer atmosphere in a gentle, quiet death. This is in stark contrast to their higher mass counterparts, which end their lives in a short, fiery and spectacular explosion known as a supernova. The Sun falls into the category of the former, however, which means that what we are looking at in the image above is a plausible depiction of how the sun would look like some 5 billion years into the future. 

An annotated version has also been included, highlighting the various features in the outer regions of the nebula. The proper motion of the nebula points towards the northeast, which partly explains the higher density of features on the NE side. This is due to the collision of the expanding gases of the nebula with the interstellar medium, creating a shock front. 

Imaging Details

Telescope: Astro-Physics AP130GTX at f/4.5, Takahashi FSQ85ED at f/5.3
Camera: Atik 16200M, SBIG ST8300M
Mount: Losmandy G11/G2
Integration: 11 hours HaRGB

Image reduction, integration and processing with Pleiades Astrophoto PixInsight.