This fortnight’s subject is a bit further east along the sky from our last subject, in the constellation of Aquarius. I must admit, from where I was in a rather light-polluted suburb, I couldn’t see this object at all. Not even a faint smudge in my eyepiece, just nothing. You’ll definitely need dark skies and a large telescope to even think of observing this object visually.
The Helix Nebula (Also known as The Eye of God, and The Eye of Sauron in pop culture), more properly known as The Helix, or NGC 7293 is the closest planetary nebula to Earth.
Now, a planetary nebula isn’t where planets form, they’re actually made of massive shells of ionised gases and elements ejected from the surface of a dying red giant star. They’re very short-lived features by astronomical standards, only lasting a few tens of thousands of years, as opposed to billions for stars and nebulae.
This particular image was more of a test to see whether I could get good long exposures in light wind conditions, and I think it turned out well!
It’s composed of 2x900s exposures in each of Ha, OIII and SII wavelengths for a total of 2700s (45 min) integration time, and processed according to a custom Narrowband -> RGB method, where I double the OIII data into the blue and green channels, and the SII and Ha data are assigned into the red channel.