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Helix Nebula

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The Helix Nebula

Looks can be deceptive. A view of the helix nebula might leave you guessing its structure is that of a doughnut. Viewed in 3D and its structure is more accurately portrayed as a lens. The story grows more complex however, as astronomers now believe there are two disks parallel to each other - an interpretation I don't show here. Look deep inside the nebula and see if you can spot the white dwarf - it is visible as a tiny white dot in the center of the picture. Planetary nebulae are the remains of stars that once looked a lot like our sun and indeed this will be the fate of our own star.

   
 
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All images © Brian Smallwood