Helix Nebula - NGC 7293

A cloud of gas is expelled and illuminated by the dying star at the center of the Helix Nebula.

Looks can be deceiving when it comes to celestial objects. From the vantage point of Earth the Helix Nebula looks like a donut, but it is actually more complex. Because these objects are so far away, it is difficult to see their three-dimensional structure. The Helix Nebula looks a bit like a doughnut, but earlier images of this gaseous envelope ejected by a dying, sun-like star were interpreted to show that the Helix's form resembled a snake-like coil. Most recently, the Helix's structure has become even more perplexing with evidence suggesting that the Helix consists of two nearly perpendicular discs.

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Object Name: Helix Nebula, NGC 7293

Release Date: Dec 16, 2004

Image Credits: NASA, ESA, C.R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University), M. Meixner and P. McCullough (STScI)

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