Messier 27 NGC 6853 The Dumbbell Planetary Nebula
Imaged by Martin S. Ferlito copyright
Gstar-EX Integrating Video Camera
8" Schmidt -Cassegrain on Vixen GP Mount, Stepper Driven. 
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 Discovered by Charles Messier in 1764.
The Dumbbell Nebula Messier 27 (M27, NGC 6853) is perhaps the finest planetary nebula in the sky, and was the first planetary nebula ever discovered.
On July 12, 1764, Charles Messier discovered this new and fascinating class of objects, and describes this one as an oval nebula without stars. The name "Dumb-bell" goes back to the description by John Herschel, who also compared it to a "double-headed shot."
We happen to see this one approximately from its equatorial plane (approx. left-to-right in our image); this is similar to our view of another, fainter Messier planetary nebula, M76, which is called the Little Dumbbell. From near one pole, it would probably have the shape of a ring, and perhaps look like we view the Ring Nebula M57.
As measured by Soviet astronomer O.N. Chudowitchera from Pulkowo (and mentioned by L.H. Aller, Glyn Jones and Vehrenberg), the bright portion of the nebula is apparently expanding at a rate of 6.8 arc seconds per century, leading to an estimated age of 3,000 to 4,000 years, i.e. the shell ejection probably would have been observable this time ago (it actually happened earlier as the light had to travel all the distance of perhaps about 1000 light years). She estimated the distance somewhat short at only about 490 ly. Another estimate, given by Burnham, has obtained a rate 1.0 arc seconds per century, and an estimated age of 48,000 years.
The central star of M27 is quite bright at mag 13.5, and an extremely hot blueish subdwarf dwarf at about 85,000 K (so the spectral type is given as O7 in the Sky Catalog 2000). K.M. Cudworth of the Yerkes Observatory found that it probably has a faint (mag 17) yellow companion at 6.5" in position angle 214 deg (Burnham).

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