The M57 Ring Nebula is a fascinating astronomical object that has captured the attention of astronomers and stargazers for centuries. This image of the Ring Nebula, also known as Messier 57, was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and combined with infrared data from the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona to showcase its dramatic shape and vibrant colors.
From Earth, the Ring Nebula appears as a simple elliptical shape with a shaggy boundary. However, the new observations combining existing ground-based data with new data from Hubble reveal that the nebula is actually shaped like a distorted doughnut. The central "gap" of the doughnut has a rugby-ball-shaped region of lower-density material, which stretches towards and away from us.
The image captured by Hubble provides a stunning visual display of the Ring Nebula's intricate details and vibrant colors. The doughnut-shaped structure is clearly visible, as well as the rugby-ball-shaped region in the center of the gap. The image also reveals the intricate patterns of gas and dust clouds that make up the nebula, as well as the young, hot stars that illuminate them.
The Ring Nebula is located approximately 2,000 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation of Lyra. It is a planetary nebula, which means that it was formed when a dying star shed its outer layers, creating a colorful cloud of gas and dust that is illuminated by the star's remaining core.
Overall, this image of the Ring Nebula captured by Hubble provides astronomers with valuable insights into the structure and composition of this beautiful and complex astronomical object.
Image credits: NASA, ESA, C.R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University), and D. Thompson (Large Binocular Telescope Observatory)