Night Flight to the Stars

Activity 4D: The Case of the Disappearing Rings

The Ring Nebula (M57) is the result of a star reaching the end of its stable like. The star pulsates and the atmosphere has been blown off into space as a gas bubble surrounding the star. Some of this gas may have begun to condense into dust, which is warmed by the hot central star.

The Ring Nebula is 70 arc seconds in diameter and about 1,500 light years away.

The KAO tracker operator will use the bright star above the Ring Nebula to guide, while centering the detector on the nebula. For a small faint object life the ring, guiding the telescope will be difficult and critical.

(Please note: IRAS photo enlarged relative to top image)

The lower photograph is the Ring Nebula in infrared radiation at 60 microns, photographed by the IRAS satellite. Does this IR image show the dark central area of the nebula? Are any of the stars visible in infrared? Do you think the differences are due more to differences in wavelength, or differences in image quality?

What do you predict that the KAO will observe? Explain your prediction. Remember that the Ring Nebula is just around one star, not a nebula filled with hundreds of stars like M17 or W51.

Event UT Local
Plane Location
Obj. Elevation
Begin End Distance
(naut. mi.)
Departure Houston 0:10 _____ 30°00'N 95°00'W

Observing M17 0:37 _____ 30°30'N 98°01'W 40°.2 32°.8 426.1nm
Observing W51 1:47 _____ 34°14'N 105°09'W 67°.4 58°.1 402.5nm
Observing M57 2:52 _____ 39°13'N 110°16'W 64°.3 55°.1 401.0nm
Observing Saturn 3:39 _____ 44°17'N 110°47'W 34°.4 39°.6 364.1nm
Observing M33 4:40 _____ 41°19'N 117°46'W 49°.6 56°.6 233.4nm
End Observing 5:16 _____ 37°21'N 117°31'W

Arrival Ames 5:52 _____ 37°25'N 122°03'W

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