Dumbbell Nebula (with Halo....move cursor over image)
During the dying gasps of mid-sized suns, the outer layers blossom in a brilliant splash of color, called a planetary nebula. Whereas the lifespan of the star is in the billions of years, the stunning colors of the planetary nebula last a mere thousand years. Thus, in death, these stars impart to the universe a brief but memorable gift of beauty, like a candle in the wind.
The upper view of the Dumbbell Nebula, M27, was taken through a 12-inch Meade LX200R, with a SBIG ST-10MXE camera using a 0.67x AP reducer. Exposures for the core were obtained in 2006 with 60 minutes each through red, green, and blue filters. The outer halo, revealed by moving your cursor over the image, was added 5 years later with 130 minutes exposure with a H-alpha filter binned 3x3. The methods are discussed in my book, The 100 Best Targets for Astrophotography, and in the October 2012 issue of Sky & Telescope.