I love a good planetary nebula, don’t you? This one, nicknamed the “Cygnus Bubble” was newly discovered just this month! It also goes by the official catalogue name of PN G75.5+1.7 — although that isn’t nearly as inspiring.
The Cygnus Bubble might be an extremely rare type of planetary nebula, because it appears to be spherical. What precisely determines the shape a planetary nebula will grow into isn’t actually known. Astrophysicists have made models to try and explain them, but we’re still missing several pieces of the puzzle. In any case, quite frequently, they tend to be shaped more like dumbells or diabolos. Even those which don’t form a double lobed structure are almost never spherical. There is, however, the chance that it isn’t spherical at all, but we’re looking down one end of a cylindrical shape. But there’s no way to be certain about that until someone studies it in more detail.
This one was discovered* at California’s Mount Wilson Observatory, by Dave Jurasevich around the beginning of July. By remarkable coincidence, it was then found a few days later by amateur astronomers, Mel Helm and Keith Quattrocchi. Serendipity, it seems, works in curious ways.
*Actually, it looks as though it was recorded before in at least one sky survey, but was overlooked. Ageing planetary nebulae like this one can be extremely faint!
Image taken by the 4m telescope at Kitt Peak. Credit: Travis A. Rector / University of Alaska Anchorage / Heidi Schweiker / NOAO.