One of the things that caught my eye Saturday night when I had the telescope out was the Ring Nebula, M-57. The image here is from the University of Illinois, but in this image it looks very similar to the view I got from my driveway that night.
I was using a 23mm Celestron Ultima eyepiece, which I figure to be about 93X on my scope. My software lists it’s magnitude at 8.8, which is not real bright, but a lot brighter than most of the objects I was looking at that night.
The Ring Nebula is considered to be the prototypical planetary nebula. As a average class star dies, it first swells into a red giant. It then begins a process of shrinking down into a white dwarf, and during this process it puffs out enormous amounts of mass in the form of these huge clouds of gas, which form the nebula.
This one is about 2200 - 2500 light years away, meaning the light from this dying star was first emitted about 22 B.C.
I’m fascinated with the entire life cycle of stars, so I love looking at planetary nebula like this one. Eventually our sun will end up the same way, first swelling into a red giant, then blowing off huge quantities of mass as it shrinks into a white dwarf.