In France in the 18th century Astronomer Charles Messier was busy hunting comets, during his telescopic travels of the cosmos Messier kept a concise list of all the interesting things that he saw which were not comets, Todays Astronomy Picture of the Day features number 27 of Messiers now famous not-a-comet list.
Modern amateur astronomers might recognise the beautiful, strangely symmetric feature as a planetary nebula, a planet forming area of space, but it’s not that either. Messier 27 (M27) is in fact a stunning example of a Gaseous Emission Nebula, created as a sun like star runs out of fuel in its core.
The nebula forms as the star contracts and it’s outer layers are ejected into space, glowing visibly as atoms are excited by the dying star’s intense but invisible UV light.
Also known by the popular name of the Dumbbell Nebula, the gas cloud is over 2.5 light years wide and at a distance of 1,200 light years away and is most definitely not a Comet!!