NGC 6072

Planetary Nebula in Scorpius

2.5 light years.
7,300 light years.
Apparent size:
1.2 arc min

A planetary nebula is the outcome of a mid-mass star (like the Sun) losing its outer layers of gas which, as it expands, glows from the relentless ultra-violet light from the exposed central core of the star. It’s called a planetary nebula because to early astronomers its disc like shape resembled a planet, rather than the pinpoint of bright light associated with stars. It is not a planet. It is a dying star.

This type of object is always very young, as the nebulous gas dissipates relatively quickly – and this particular nebula NGC 6072 is estimated to be only about 10,000 years old.

Eventually our Sun will become a planetary nebula and the gas outflow will likely extend halfway to Alpha Centauri, our closest neighbouring star system. Not for a few more billion years though!

30 minutes
Field of View:
18 x 12 arcmin
Image date:

I couldn’t find much information about NGC 6072 itself – but interestingly there seems to be a galaxy located behind it with the wonderfully lyrical name of 2MASX J16125713-3613263. It appears to be about 1.5 billion light years distant and it’s in the straight red wall at the top of my image and is indicated as the blue elliptical icon in the research image below:

Planetary nebula NGC 6072 with the position of galaxy 2MASX J16125713-3613263 marked by the blue ellipse. (Source: Simbad/Aladin)

Location map for Scorpius
courtesy Wikimedia

Telescope & Imaging Details

Telescope:SkyWatcher Esprit 120 mm apochromatic 3-element refractor; 840 mm f/l @ f/7.
Optics:Field flattener; no filter.
Mount & Guiding:SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro mount; ZWO ASI120 guide camera.
Imaging camera: ZWO ASI 290 MC uncooled.
Software:Control: Cartes du Ciel, ASCOM, EQMOD, PHD2. Imaging: SharpCap, Gimp.
Observatory:34° South.

Thanks for reading 🙃

Images © Roger Powell
I’m one of the founder members of Macarthur Astronomical Society and current webmaster.


  1. In a nutshell there are three routes for dying stars:
    Very large stars will explode as a supernova (resulting in a black hole or a neutron star).
    Very small stars will just burn all their hydrogen (and then very slowly radiate away).
    The in-between stars like the Sun will become a red giant star, then a planetary nebula (which will dissipate quickly) and a white dwarf (which will then very slowly radiate away).


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