The Helix Nebula, located about 700 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, is a stunning example of a planetary nebula. This colorful and intricate image of the Helix Nebula was captured using two powerful telescopes: the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the Mosaic II Camera on the 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
The Helix Nebula is so large that both telescopes were needed to capture a complete view of it. From Earth, the Helix Nebula resembles a simple doughnut shape. However, recent evidence suggests that the Helix Nebula is more complex than previously thought. In fact, the Helix Nebula is made up of two gaseous disks that are nearly perpendicular to each other.
Despite this newfound complexity, the Helix Nebula remains a striking and beautiful object to observe. This image reveals the Helix Nebula's intricate structure, including its bright outer ring, knotty inner region, and faint outer halo. The colors in the image correspond to different chemical elements present in the nebula, including oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.
Overall, this image of the Helix Nebula is a testament to the power and beauty of space exploration. By combining data from multiple telescopes, astronomers are able to create detailed and awe-inspiring views of the universe, revealing the wonders that lie beyond our planet.
Image credits: NASA, ESA, C.R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University), and M. Meixner, P. McCullough, and G. Bacon ( Space Telescope Science Institute)