The Dumbbell Nebula in the constellation Vulpecula, also known as M27 in the Messier Catalog, or NGC 6853, was the first planetary nebula ever discovered. On July 12, 1764, Charles Messier discovered this new and fascinating class of objects.

From Earth we are observing it approximately from its equatorial plane. If seem from near one of the poles, it would probably have the shape of a ring, and perhaps look like we view the Ring Nebula.

It is quite large, the brighter part of the body taking up almost 6 arc minutes, and the fainter halo over 15 arc minutes, which is about half the diameter of the moon. For a nebula, it's fairly bright, with a visual magnitude of 7.4.

The nebula's central star has a magnitude of 13.5, quite bright for such a star. It is an extremely warm blue dwarf. Also, it appears that it has a yellow companion 6.5 arc seconds away, with a magnitude of 17.

As for many other planetary nebulae, the distance is hard to determine. Estimates vary from 490 to 3,500 light years away.

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