Break out the bubbly – it’s a new nebula

Kitt Peak, Arizona – It looks for all the world like a giant soap bubble, but it’s actually a newly-photographed planetary nebula.

Unusually, the Soap Bubble Nebula – officially known as PN G75.5+1.7 – is spherical rather than cigar-shaped, double-lobed or elliptical. It lies in the constellation of Cygnus.

The nebula was discovered by amateur astronomer Dave Jurasevich on July 6 2008, and was noted and reported by Keith Quattrocchi and Mel Helm on July 17th last year. But this first clear image was obtained with the Kitt Peak Mayall four-meter telescope only in June this year.

The picture was obtained in the H-alpha (orange) and [OIII] (blue) narrowband filters. In this image, north is to the left and east is down.

Despite the name, planetary nebulae are nothing to do with planets. They’re formed when the nuclear fusion at the centre of a star can no longer support its structure.

Either that, or there are some really, really big children out there.