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The Helix Nebula

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The Helix Nebula

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The Helix Nebula is a celestial body found in the Aquarius constellation about 650 light years away from the Sun. The nebula has the catalogue number NGC 7293, by which it is otherwise known. It is the closest body to the Earth spanning about 2.5 light-years. It is an example of planetary nebulae, which are remnants of stars that once resembled the sun. Karl Ludwig Harding discovered the helix in the 18th century, in 1824, when a star resembling the Sun was in its final stages of evolution (Dunbar Web).

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The degenerating star sloughed off shedding gas shells that formed the nebula. What remained at the core of the star was a pinprick, hot, and dense center, referred to as the white dwarf. The white dwarf weighs close to the original star, but it is almost the same size as the Earth. It emits a bright ultraviolet light that shines on the shed gas layers giving it an infrared glow. The center has a bright, purple core that results from ultraviolet and infrared combination. The core is actually a glowing dusty disk that surrounds the white dwarf. Planetary nebulae turn hydrogen into helium in their cores while undergoing intense nuclear fusion reactions. The fusion is responsible for the supply of heat and light received from the sun (Walsh and Meaburn Web).

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The chemistry of the Helix Nebula comprises of molecular gas, ionized material and dust arranged in a spectacular complex that resembles a flower pattern. The nebula also contains elements such as oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, sulfur, and carbon among others. It shines in the vicious beam of ultraviolet light from the central hot star about 500 light years away from the Earth. Although the nebula appears like a big object in the sky, its angular size is about 2.5 light-years in diameter, halfway that of the moon. Images taken of the nebula reveal that it appears like a flat disk, which is about a third of its diameter in thickness. It also has inner and outer rings, with the core containing hot and highly ionized gas. The outer ring measures 742” in diameter while the inner has a diameter of 499”. The plane of the outer ring is greatly inclined to the plane of the disk unlike that of the inner ring. A larger ring that measures about 1500” in diameter surrounds the outer ring (Lamers et al. Web).

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The images further reveal that the edges of the inner ring have tiny knots and tails that point away from the original star. The emission knots appear like bow-shaped structures bearing a glowing tip on the globular side of the main star, with an outwardly extending tail. The knots result from shooting hot gas from the star surface and collides with the cooler surrounding substances (O’Dell, Peter and Margaret Web). The most striking feature of the nebula is the collection of many filamentary structures or gas strands that appear like a transparent blue background with red lines emanating from the core. The aforementioned are the identifiable features of the nebula as revealed by images taken through the Hubble Space Telescope and Wide Field Imager (Henry et al. Web).

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The Helix Nebula is of interest to humans because it is facilitating change in the European research sector in the application of IT for cloud services. It has revolutionized the infrastructure in the scientific and industrial sectors and society as a whole through the provision of secure, accessible, competitive and sustainable development. Therefore, the helix is the next big thing in the research and industrial world as it facilitates the evolution of infrastructure since it is among the most eye-catching discoveries in astronomy (Dunbar Web).

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Works Cited

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Dunbar, Brian. The Helix Nebula – Bigger in Death than Life. NASA, 3 Oct. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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Henry, R.B.C., K.B. Kwitter, and R.J Dufour. Morphology and Composition of the Helix Nebula. Cornell University Library, 8 Jan. 1999. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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Lamers, Henny, Antonella Nota, Nino Panagia, Linda Smith, and Norbert Langer. Chemical “Composition and Origin of Nebulae around Luminous Blue Variables.” The Astrophysical Journal. 551.2 (2001): 764. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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O’Dell, C. R., Peter R. Mccullough, and Margaret Meixner. “Unraveling the Helix Nebula: Its Structure And Knots.” The Astronomical Journal, 128 (2004): 2339-2356. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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Walsh, J.R. and J. Meaburn. Imaging the Globules in the Core of the Helix Nebula (NGC 7293). University of Manchester, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

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