NGC 1514 -- Crystal Ball Planetary Nebula in Taurus
The Crystal Ball Nebula
Just over the border of Perseus into the far northern section of Taurus resides the Crystal
Ball Nebula (NGC 1514). From my suburban backyard, with the 6-inch refractor, a nebula
filter is needed to see this Planetary Nebula, but not so for the central star. At magnitude
9.3 the central star can be spotted easily even in my 2.4-inch refractor. Such a bright
central star is unusual for Planetary Nebulae – and thus the Crystal Ball Nebula is
NGC 1514’s central star is really two very close suns that orbit around each other every
10 days. The total mass of the binary system is about 4.5x that of our sun. These are very
hot stars of Spectral Types A and O. The Type O star is a subdwarf. As one can imagine
this binary system is intense and it comes as no surprise that these twin-stars are blowing
off large quantities of mass and energy that forms and ignites the surrounding nebula.
In the 6-inch refractor I find this an easy target from my backyard. Just star-hop to the
bright central star, up the magnification, add a nebula filter and the Crystal Ball Nebula
pops into view. Spend some time with it -- I find the northern section of the nebula brighter
than the other parts of the nebula and the whole nebula somewhat textured and not uniform.