NGC 7293 - The Helix Nebula
Coordinates:  22h 29.6m  -20 49  (2000)
Magnitude: 6.5
Size: 15 x 12 minutes
As with all extended objects, the published magnitude is the brightness the object would have if all it's light were consolidated into a single point source. For the Helix, the 6.5 magnitude point source is spread out into an area almost half the size of the full moon, resulting in extremely low surface brightness. The Helix is a very difficult object to find and observe visually. With a declination of -20 degrees, the Helix does not rise very high in the sky for many locations.
Constellation: Aquarius (best viewed in Autumn)
The Helix is a planetary nebula, estimated to be about 500 light years distant. The nebula is the outer atmosphere of a dying star, ejected into space as the star runs out of nuclear fuel and collapses into a white dwarf. The red color is the characteristic color of hydrogen being excited into luminescence by the light of nearby stars. The green color is produced by doubly ionized oxygen.
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