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Cygnus Soap Bubble

Submitter: Albert van Duin
Description: The Soap Bubble nebula, or PN G75.5+1.7, is a planetary nebula in the constellation Cygnus, near the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888). It is aptly named because it is almost transparent and appears perfectly spherical. However, spherical planetaries are rare: most of them are cylindrical. It might be that, by chance, we are looking into the opening of a cylinder.

By the way, planetary nebulas have nothing to do with planets: they are old stars that are dumping part of their material into interstellar space near the end of their lives. They are popular with astro-photographers because of their rather photogenic colours and shapes.

Because the Soap Bubble nebula is so difficult to see, it was discovered only very recently, on June 19, 2007 and on July 6, 2008. Remarkably, it was done by an amateur astronomer, Dave Jurasevic, who was imaging the larger nebula with a 16 cm refractor. On July 17, 2008, it was noticed independently by Keith. B. Quattrocchi and Mel Helm, and reported to the International Astronomical Union (source: Wikipedia). Subsequently, the object was identified in the 2nd Palomar Sky Survey, which was made 16 years earlier.

Of course such an object presents a challenge that is hard to resist. The above image was made by the authour with his 40cm F/4 telescope from his back garden in Beilen (The Netherlands) on July 4, 2011. It is a combination of nine seperate ten-minute integrations, using a cooled CCD-camera and an H-Alpha filter.
Copyright: Albert van Duin
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