The Dumbbell Nebula, designated Messier 27 or NGC 6853, is a planetary nebula with a radius of about 1.44 light-year, located some 1,360 light-years away in the northern constellation of Vulpecula (the Fox). Measurements have indicated that it is approaching us at approximately 42 kilometers per second and expanding at about 31 kilometers per second.

When a star with a mass up to eight times that of the Sun runs out of fuel at the end of its life, it blows off its outer shells and begins to lose mass. This allows the hot, inner core of the star to radiate strongly, causing this outward-moving cocoon of gas to glow brightly.

Over the next several thousand years, the Dumbbell nebula will gradually disperse into space, and then the white dwarf star that generated the nebula, will cool and fade away for billions of years. Our own Sun is expected to undergo a similar fate, but fortunately this will not occur until some 5 billion years from now.

The Dumbbell nebula is shaped like a somewhat elongated spheroid. But, we see this nebula roughly along its equatorial plane; if it were to be viewed from near one pole, it would probably have the shape of a ring, and perhaps appear similar to the Ring Nebula (M57).

The Dumbbell consists of material that has been ejected from the hot central star, a white dwarf. This white dwarf is estimated to have a radius of about 0.055 that of our Sun which gives it a size larger than any other known white dwarf. Its mass is estimated to be some 0.56 solar masses.

The gas atoms in the nebula are heated by the intense ultraviolet radiation from this white dwarf and emit strongly at specific wavelengths. Its bluish coloration is released by oxygen atoms while the red hues are emitted by hydrogen.

The Dumbbell shows many knots, but their shapes vary. Some look like fingers pointing at the central star; others are isolated clouds, with or without tails. Their sizes typically range from 17 – 56 billion kilometers (11 – 35 billion miles), which is several times larger than the distance from the Sun to Pluto. Each contains as much mass as three Earths.

Some handbook data:
Constellation: Vulpecula
RA: 19h 59m
Dec: +22Deg 43sec
Distance: 1 Thousand Light Yeards
Apparent size: 5.8 arc-min
Magnitude: 7.3

Image Details:
Ha: 25x600sec
O3: 25x600sec
Bi-color processing

Telescope: Skywatcher Quattro CF 10 f/4
CCD: Tria SX-694
CCD Guiding: Lodestar
Capture and guiding software: MaxIm DL
Mount: AZ-EQ-6 Pro

Processing: PixInsight
Bias, Darks and Flats applied