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The Ring Is A Lie: Ring Nebula Not A Ring After All

21 May 2018, 14:01 UTC
The Ring Is A Lie: Ring Nebula Not A Ring After All
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This image is a composite of the Ring Nebula (Messier 57). This combines new Hubble Wide Field Camera 3 data with observations of the nebula’s outer halo from the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT). Despite its appearances, this object isn’t merely a ring-like structure after all. (Hubble data: NASA, ESA, C. Robert O’Dell (Vanderbilt University); LBT data: David Thompson)One of the night sky’s most famous sights isn’t what it appears to be.Perhaps the most famous sight of a dying star is the Ring Nebula, known since 1779.The Ring Nebula appears to be an enormous gaseous ring surrounding a white dwarf star. This is representative of the fate of Sun-like stars that aren’t part of multi-star systems. Despite its appearances, this isn’t a true ring after all. (NASA, ESA, and C. Robert O’Dell (Vanderbilt University))At just over 2,000 light years away, it is the closest dying star to Earth.In between the 2nd and 3rd brightest stars of the constellation Lyra, the blue giant stars Sheliak and Sulafat, the Ring Nebula shines prominently in the night skies. (NASA, ESA, Digitized Sky Survey 2)Upon observing it, Charles Messier wrote: “it is very dull, but perfectly outlined; it is as large as Jupiter & resembles ...

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