Sizzling hot image of the week: Heckathorn-Fesen-Gull 1

Posted by David Eicher
on Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rarely do you get a look at a planetary nebula that’s this old. The endgame for Sun-like stars, planetary nebulae — so named because many years ago their disks appeared like planets in the eyepiece — are clouds of gas slowly dissipating into surrounding space. They’re one of the methods the universe uses for its stellar recycling program.

Image credit: Don Goldman
Noted astroimager Don Goldman recently captured an amazing planetary nebula, Heckathorn-Fesen-Gull 1. What sounds like the first case of a law firm is actually an extremely old planetary nebula at more than 50,000 years. It represents a view of what our Sun’s neighborhood will look like 5 billion years down the road.

Discovered in 1982, HFG1 lies in the constellation Cassiopeia at 3h4m, 64°55m (2000.0), and is huge at 14.5' in diameter, but exceedingly faint. The central star that gave birth to the nebula glows feebly at magnitude 14.5.

Don used a 16-inch scope, Apogee U16M CCD camera, and a total of 14 hours of exposure time to capture this faint object.

For more on his amazing shot, see

Tags: Nebulae
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