Saturn Nebula

The Saturn Nebula or NGC 7009 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Aquarius. It appears as a greenish-yellowish hue in a small amateur telescope. It was discovered by William Herschel on September 7, 1782, using a telescope of his own design in the garden at his home in Datchet, England, and was one of his earliest discoveries in his sky survey. The nebula was originally a low-mass star that ejected its layers into space, forming the nebula. The central star is now a bright white dwarf star of apparent magnitude 11.5. The Saturn Nebula gets its name from its superficial resemblance to the planet Saturn with its rings nearly edge-on to the observer. It was so named by Lord Rosse in the 1840s, when telescopes had improved to the point that its Saturn-like shape could be discerned. William Henry Smyth said that the Saturn Nebula is one of Struve’s nine “Rare Celestial Objects.”

The Saturn Nebula is a complex planetary nebula and contains many morphological and kinematic sub-systems in three dimensions. It includes a halo, jet-like streams, multiple shells, ansae (“handles”), and small-scale filaments and knots. The ansae are expanding non-radially from the central star.[3] Although the ansae are most prominent in the Saturn Nebula, they are also visible in other planetary nebulae, including NGC 3242, NGC 6543 and NGC 2371-2.

The distance of the Saturn Nebula is not known precisely. Sabbadin et al. 2004 estimates the distance to be 5,200 light-years (1.6 kpc). In 1963 O’Dell estimated it to be 3,900 light-years (1.2 kpc), which gives an approximate diameter of 0.5 light years for the object as a whole.

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