NGC 7293 - The Helix Nebula in Aquarius


Copyright 2007 Hap Griffin

The Helix Nebula, also known as NGC 7293, lies 450 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius.  It is a "planetary nebula" meaning that it's round shape may at times be mistaken for a planet...actually an old term which has less meaning in today's better equipped amateur astronomy community than long ago when the term was coined.  This class of objects is formed when a star nears the end of its lifetime and blows away its outer layers of material to space.  In this case, the progenitor star was the same type star as our sun.  The remaining core of the star, now a "white dwarf", can be seen directly in the center of the nebula.  Several rings of material can be seen, with the faint outer deep red northeastern arc visible at the upper left if your monitor is adjusted correctly.  The diameter of main portion of the Helix is roughly 2.5 light years.


Date/Location:    October 6, 2007     Griffin/Hunter Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 350XT Digital SLR (modified) through 10" Orion f/4.7 Newtonian 
Focal Ratio:   f/4.7 
Guiding:    Auto via SBIG ST237 through Orion ED80
Conditions:    Visually clear - seeing not steady 
Weather:    70 F
Exposure: 155 minutes total (31 x 5 minutes @ ISO 800)
Filters:    Baader UV/IR block in camera
Processing:    Focused and captured with DSLRFocus.  RAW to TIFF conversion, auto-dark and flat frame calibration, Digital Development, Richardson-Lucy deconvolution, resizing and JPEG conversion in ImagesPlus.  Noise reduction in Neat Image.  Final tweaking in Photoshop CS2.