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Nothing But the Facts About the Cat’s Eye Nebula

written by: Anurag Ghosh•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 5/9/2011

Also known as the Sunflower Nebula and NGC 6543, this enchanting cosmic eye was discovered by William Herschel in 1786. Here are some more facts, information and photographs.

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    Nebula Basics

    The Cat’s Eye Nebula is a planetary nebula with a very intricate structure. The center of the nebula has the core of a bright star, which ejected its outer gaseous layers in the distant past, producing amazing spherical structures. The high resolution images sent by the Hubble Space Telescope reveal amazing twisted shapes, bubbles, knots and arc-like features within the nebula. Here are some of the most amazing facts, information and photo of this planetary nebula.

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    Facts, Information and Photo

    The Cat's Eye Nebula - Photo Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994 Classification: Type-P (Planetary Nebula)

    Constellation: Draco

    Other Names: Sunflower Nebula, NGC 6543

    Right Ascension: 17h 58m 22.423s

    Declination: +66 degrees

    Apparent magnitude: 9.8B

    Distance: 3300 light years away from our planet

    Radius: 0.2 light year

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    History, Composition and Other Information

    Composite Image of the Cat's Eye Nebula 1. The nebula was first observed by British Astronomer Sir Frederick William Herschel on February 15, 1786.

    2. On August 29, 1864 William Huggins observed the nebula with a spectroscope. It was the first nebula to be observed by this instrument. The spectroscopic observations of Huggins showed a few bright streaks on the nebula’s spectrum. This observation indicates that it consisted of gases whose pressure is less than the Earth's atmospheric pressure (rarefied gases).

    3. Like most other planetary nebulae, this nebula is comprised mostly of helium and hydrogen. Spectroscopic analysis reveals that it also contains heavy elements.

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    More Amazing Facts and Information About the Cat’s Eye Nebula

    Here are some more interesting facts and information:

    1. It has a very complex structure. Scientists suspect that the nebula’s central part consists of the remains of a double star system.

    2. According to observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope, the nebula’s central part consists of the remains of the dying star – an extremely hot, exposed core of the star. It glows because of the ultraviolet radiation from the star's core. Sooner or later, the central’s star’s core will contract and form a white dwarf.

    3. A series of concentric rings have been observed outside the nebula’s bright inner part. The formation of the gaseous rings is due Information and Photo: Cat's Eye Nebula - Notice the Symmetry and the Concentric Circles outside the Nebula's Center to the emission of the outer gaseous layers of the dying star. The concentric rings are spaced evenly and the total mass of the rings is 0.1 solar masses. The gases that formed the rings were emitted in a series of pulses. They were ejected at regular intervals, with each pulsation occurring every 1,500 years. The first ejection occurred approximately around 15,000 years ago and the last around 1,000 years ago.

    4. The photo to your right shows that one side of the nebula is similar to the other. This symmetry could have been caused by two jets gases that ejected from the opposite vicinities of the star’s core.

    5. The Cat’s Eye Nebula will be visible until the gases disperse into space. However, the gases will dissipate into space over the course of 10,000 years. Until then, we can surely marvel at the beauty of this alluring cosmic eye.

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    References

    http://hubblesite.org/gallery/tours/tour-catseye/

    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1995/01/

    http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMFB91A90E_index_0.html

    Image Credits:

    http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_211.html

    http://dayton.hq.nasa.gov/IMAGES/LARGE/GPN-2000-000955.jpg

    http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/1995/49/image/h/