Amateur astronomer Matthias Kronberger discovered the soccer-ball nebula, called Kronberger 61, in January 2011 after poring over digitized photos of sky surveys from the 1980s. After he alerted professional astronomers, the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii zoomed in on the region to create the new, color-composite image.
Kronberger 61 lies roughly 13,000 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation and is almost perfectly round—an oddity when compared with the other 3,000 or so planetary nebulae already discovered.
"Very few are this spherical. They're usually elongated and look like butterflies and other objects," said astronomer George Jacoby of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization in Pasadena, California, who helped image the nebula with Gemini.
"Soccer Ball" Nebula Discovered by Amateur Astronomer
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