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The Infrared Helix
Ssc2006 01a

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Hora (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA)

Observation • January 9th, 2006 • ssc2006-01a


The Helix Nebula, which is composed of gaseous shells and disks puffed out by a dying sunlike star, exhibits complex structure on the smallest visible scales. In this new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, infrared light at wavelengths of 3.6, 4.5, and 8.0 microns has been colored blue, green, and red (respectively). The color saturation also has been increased to intensify hues. The "cometary knots" show blue-green heads due to excitation of their molecular material from shocks or ultraviolet radiation. The tails of the cometary knots appear redder due to being shielded from the central star's ultraviolet radiation and wind by the heads of the knots.

About the Object

Helix NebulaNGC 7293
Nebula > Type > Planetary
650 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Infrared 3.6 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 4.5 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 8.0 µm Spitzer IRAC


Position (J2000)
RA =22h 29m 33.3s
Dec = -20° 48' 46.8"
Field of View
19.8 x 23.1 arcminutes
North is 61.0° right of vertical