Friday, April 24, 2009

The Cat's Eye Nebula: Cool Photo

"Astronomy Picture of the Day "
NASA (September 10, 2004)

"Explanation: Staring across interstellar space, the alluring Cat's Eye nebula lies three thousand light-years from Earth. A classic planetary nebula, the Cat's Eye (NGC 6543) represents a final, brief yet glorious phase in the life of a sun-like star. This nebula's dying central star may have produced the simple, outer pattern of dusty concentric shells...."

NASA's page displays the picture at four times the size of this thumbnail.

The Cat's Eye Nebula is about half a light year across, and around 3,300 light years away, in the constellation Draco.

It's a beautiful sight: as well as an image that astronomers can use to study planetary nebulae. You'll see photos of the Cat's Eye Nebula with other combinations of colors: I haven't verified this for the NGC 6543 photos, but in other cases, this has been a matter of the picture being taken in wavelengths that we can't see - and being 'translated' into the part of the electromagnetic spectrum we can see. Or, sometimes, colors are manipulated to bring out detail that's hard to see otherwise.

More at "Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543)" (The Internet Encyclopedia of Science).

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