During the life of some stars, once the supply of nuclear fuel is depleted, they will throw off their outer shells as they transform themselves into White Dwarf Stars. This thrown off, expanding outer shell creates a Planetary Nebula and depending on the angle from which it is viewed, take on very different shapes and sizes. The name "Planetary Nebula" is believed to be from the fact that through the small telescopes in use during the 1600 and 1700 hundred's, they resembled large planets.
Below is one such Planetary Nebula, M27 aka: The Dumbbell Nebula, in the constellation Vulpecula. It is estimated to be ~1,200 light years distant.
Image acquired: 2007.09.12
Birmingham, Ohio USA
Meade LX200GPS 8" @ F/6.3
Processed with ImagesPlus 2.80A