Ring Nebula

Ring Nebula
The Ring Nebula
M57 The Ring Nebula.JPG
M57, The Ring Nebula.
Observation data
(Epoch J2000)
Right ascension 18h 53m 35.079s[1]
Declination +33° 01′ 45.03″[1]
Distance 2.3+1.5
kly (700+450
Apparent magnitude (V) 8.8[4]
Apparent dimensions (V) 230″ × 230″[2]
Constellation Lyra
Physical characteristics
Radius 1.3+0.8
Absolute magnitude (V) -0.2+0.7
Notable features -
Other designations M 57,[1] NGC 6720[1]
See also: Planetary nebula, Lists of nebulae

The famously named "Ring Nebula" (also catalogued as Messier 57, M57 or NGC 6720) appears in the northern constellation of Lyra and is located in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm.[citation needed] It is one of the most prominent examples of a planetary nebula, the gaseous remains of a red giant star that has ended its life by expelling its material into the surrounding interstellar medium.



This nebula was discovered by Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January, 1779, who reported that it was "...as large as Jupiter and resembles a planet which is fading." Later the same month, Charles Messier independently found the same nebula while searching for comets. It was then entered into his catalogue as the 57th object. Messier and William Herschel also speculated that the nebula was formed by multiple faint stars that were unable to resolve with his telescope.[5][6]

In 1800, Count Friedrich von Hahn discovered the faint central star in the heart of the nebula. In 1864, William Huggins examined the spectra of multiple nebulae, discovering that some of these objects, including M57, displayed the spectra of bright emission lines characteristic of fluorescing glowing gases. Huggins concluded that most planetary nebulae were not composed of unresolved stars, as had been previously suspected, but were nebulosities.[7][8]


Location of M57 in the constellation Lyra.

M57 is located south of the bright star Vega, which forms the northwestern vertex of the Summer Triangle asterism. It lies midway between β and γ Lyrae, making it an easy target for amateur astronomers.[9]

The nebula is best observed using apertures of at least 20 cm (8-inches), but even a 7.5 cm (3-inch) telescope will reveal its elliptical ring shape.[9][10] Larger instruments will show a few darker zones on the eastern and western edges of the ring, and some faint nebulosity inside the disk. The central star, at magnitude 14.8, is difficult to spot.[10]


The Ring Nebula in infrared.

M57 is 0.7 kpc (2,300 light-years) from Earth.[3] It has a visual magnitude of 8.8v and photographic magnitude of 9.7p. Photographically, over a period of 50 years,[11] the rate of nebula expansion is roughly 1 arcsecond per century, which corresponds from spectroscopic observations to 20–30 km−1). M57 is illuminated by a central white dwarf or planetary nebula nucleus (PNN) of 15.75v visual magnitude,[12] whose mass is approximately 1.2 MΘ (in solar masses.)

All the interior parts of this nebula have a blue-green tinge that is caused by the doubly ionized oxygen emission lines at 495.7 and 500.7 nm. These observed so-called "forbidden lines" occur only in conditions of very low density containing a few atoms per cubic centimeter. In the outer region of the ring, part of the reddish hue is caused by hydrogen emission at 656.3 nm, forming part of the Balmer series of lines. Forbidden lines of ionized nitrogen or [N II] contributes to the reddishness at 654.8 and 658.3 nm.[11]

Nebula structure

M57 is an example of the class of planetary nebulae known as bipolar nebulae, whose thick equatorial rings visibly extend the structure through its main axis of symmetry. It appears to be a prolate spheroid with strong concentrations of material along its equator. From Earth, the symmetrical axis is viewed at about 30°. Overall, the observed nebulosity has been currently estimated to be expanding for approximately 1,610±240 years.

Structural studies find this planetary exhibits knots characterized by well developed symmetry. However, these are only silhouettes visible against the background emission of the nebula's equatorial ring. M57 may include internal N II emission lines located at the knots' tips that face the PNN; however, most of these knots are neutral and appear only in extinction lines. Their existence shows they are probably only located closer to the ionization front than those found in the Lupus planetary IC 4406. Some of the knots do exhibit well-developed tails which are often detectable in optical thickness from the visual spectrum.[2][13]

Planetary nebula nucleus (PNN)

The central PNN was discovered by Hungarian astronomer Jenő Gothard on September 1, 1886 from images taken at his observatory in Herény, near Szombathely (now part of Szombathely). Within the last two thousand years, the central star of the Ring Nebula has left the asymptotic giant branch after exhausting its supply of hydrogen fuel. Thus it no longer produces its energy through nuclear fusion and, in evolutionary terms, it is now becoming a compact white dwarf star.

The PNN now consists primarily of carbon and oxygen with a thin outer envelope composed of lighter elements. Its mass is about 0.61–0.62 solar mass, with a surface temperature of 125,000±5,000 K. Currently it is 200 times more luminous than the Sun, but its apparent magnitude is only +15.75.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Radius = distance × sin(angular size / 2) = 2.3+1.5
    * sin(230″ / 2) = 1.3+0.8
  2. ^ 9 apparent magnitude − 5 * (log10(700+450
    distance) − 1) = −0.2+0.7
    absolute magnitude


  1. ^ a b c d "SIMBAD Astronomical Database". Results for Messier 57. http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/Simbad. Retrieved 2006-12-19. 
  2. ^ a b c O'Dell, C. R.; Balick, B.; Hajian, A. R.; Henney, W. J.; Burkert, A. (2002). "Knots in Nearby Planetary Nebulae". Astronomical Journal 123 (6): 3329–3347. Bibcode 2002AJ....123.3329O. doi:10.1086/340726. 
  3. ^ a b Harris, Hugh C.; Dahn, Conard C.; Canzian, Blaise; Guetter, Harry H.; Leggett, S. K.; Levine, Stephen E.; Luginbuhl, Christian B.; Monet, Alice K. B.; Monet, David G.; Pier, Jeffrey R.; Stone, Ronald C.; Tilleman, Trudy; Vrba, Frederick J.; Walker, Richard L. (2007). "Trigonometric Parallaxes of Central Stars of Planetary Nebulae". Astronomical Journal 133 (2): 631–638. arXiv:astro-ph/0611543. Bibcode 2007AJ....133..631H. doi:10.1086/510348. 
  4. ^ Murdin, P. (2000). "Ring Nebula (M57, NGC 6720)". In Paul Murdin. Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Institute of Physics Publishing. Bibcode 2000eaa..bookE5323. doi:10.1888/0333750888/5323. ISBN 0333750888. Article ID #5323. 
  5. ^ Garfinkle, Robert A. (1997). Star-hopping: Your Visa to Viewing the Universe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521598893. OCLC 37355269. 
  6. ^ Messier, Charles (1780). "Catalogue des Nébuleuses & des amas d'Étoiles". Connoissance des Temps for 1783. pp. 225–249. 
  7. ^ Frommert, Hartmut; Kronberg, Christine. "William Huggins (February 7, 1824 - May 12, 1910)". SEEDS. Archived from the original on 2008-04-21. http://web.archive.org/web/20080421100135/http://seds.org/messier/Xtra/Bios/huggins.html. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  8. ^ Huggins, W.; Miller, W. A. (1863–1864). "On the Spectra of Some of the Nebulae. And On the Spectra of Some of the Fixed Stars.". Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 13 (0): 491–493. doi:10.1098/rspl.1863.0094. JSTOR 112077. 
  9. ^ a b Crossen, Craig; Rhemann, Gerald (2004). Sky Vistas: Astronomy for Binoculars and Richest-Field Telescopes. Springer. ISBN 3211008519. OCLC 52424007. 
  10. ^ a b Dunlop, Storm (2005). Atlas of the Night Sky. Collins. ISBN 0-00-717223-0. 
  11. ^ a b Karttunen, Hannu (2003). Fundamental Astronomy. Springer. pp. 314. ISBN 3540001794. 
  12. ^ a b O'Dell, C. R.; Sabbadin, F.; Henney, W. J. (2007). "The Three-Dimensional Ionization Structure and Evolution of NGC 6720, The Ring Nebula". Astronomical Journal 134 (4): 1679–1692. Bibcode 2007AJ....134.1679O. doi:10.1086/521823. 
  13. ^ O'dell, C. R.; Balick, B.; Hajian, A. R.; Henney, W. J.; Burkert, A.; Balick; Hajian; Henney; Burkert (2003). "Knots in Planetary Nebulae". Revista Mexicana de Astronomía y Astrofísica, Serie de Conferencias 15: 29–33. Bibcode 2003RMxAC..15...29O. 

External links

Coordinates: Sky map 18h 53m 35.079s, +33° 01′ 45.03″

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ring Nebula — Astron. a planetary nebula in the constellation Lyra that has a ringlike appearance surrounding its central star. * * * ring nebula, 1. a kind of planetary nebula that looks like a ring when viewed through a telescope or on a photographic plate.… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Ring Nebula — Astron. a planetary nebula in the constellation Lyra that has a ringlike appearance surrounding its central star. * * * ▪ astronomy  (catalog numbers NGC 6720 and M 57), bright nebula in the constellation Lyra, several thousand light years from… …   Universalium

  • Ring Nebula (NGC 6822) — Diffuse nebula name = Ring Nebula in Barnard s Galaxy type = Emission epoch = J2000.0 ra = 19h 44m 36s dec = 14° 41 prime; 42 Prime; dist ly = 1.63 million ly dist pc = 0.500 Mpc appmag v = 14.5 size v = 53 Prime; constellation = Sagittarius… …   Wikipedia

  • Nebula — Nebulae redirects here. For the supercomputer in China, see Nebulae (computer). For other uses, see Nebula (disambiguation). The Pillars of Creation from the Eagle Nebula …   Wikipedia

  • nebula — Synonyms and related words: Black Magellanic Cloud, Crab Nebula, Gegenschein, bright diffuse nebula, coalsack, counterglow, dark cloud, dark nebula, diffuse nebula, dust cloud, gaseous nebula, nebula of Lyra, nebular hypothesis, nebulosity,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • nebula — nebular, adj. /neb yeuh leuh/, n., pl. nebulae / lee , luy /, nebulas. 1. Astron. a. Also called diffuse nebula. a cloud of interstellar gas and dust. Cf. dark nebula, emission nebula, reflection nebula …   Universalium

  • Nebula Award for Best Script — Winners of the Nebula Award for Best Script. The stated year is that of release; awards are given in the following year. Winning titles are listed first, with other nominees listed below. In 1974, 1975, and 1977 the award was for Best Dramatic… …   Wikipedia

  • nebula — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. galaxy, galactic vapor, cloud cluster, nimbus, rarified gas, interstellar dust, luminous vapor. Kinds of nebulae include: spiral, planetary, diffuse, galactic, gaseous, whirlpool, ring; Crab nebula, nebula of Lyra, nebula of… …   English dictionary for students

  • Nebula Award — Der Nebula Award ist ein seit 1965 von der Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc. (SFWA) verliehener Preis für die besten Science Fiction Geschichten, die in den zwei vorangegangen Jahren in den USA veröffentlicht wurden. 2009 wurde… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Helix Nebula — For the different but similarly named nebula, see Double Helix Nebula. Eye of God redirects here. For other uses, see Eye of God (disambiguation). Helix Nebula Infrared image of the Helix Nebula, taken by the Spitzer space telescope, 2007 …   Wikipedia