A Fireworks Display in the Helix Nebula
The Helix Nebula, NGC 7293, is not only one of the most interesting and beautiful planetary nebulae; it is also one of the closest nebulae to Earth, at a distance of only 710 light years (219 pc) away. This new image, taken with an infrared camera on the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, shows tens of thousands of previously unseen comet-shaped knots inside the nebula. The sheer number of knots--more than have ever been seen before--looks like a massive fireworks display in space.
The innovative technology of the Subaru Telescope with its near-infrared camera, MOIRCS, enabled researchers to produce such impressive images. Mounted on one of the largest infrared optical telescopes in the world, MOIRCS (Multi-object Infrared Camera and Spectrograph) has a large (4 arcmin by 7 arcmin) field of view, allowing it to capture, with a single shot, such detailed features in a large planetary nebula.
More info: Subaru web page