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NGC 3132 (6,681 of 18,816)


oc gc pln bn dn gx gxcl ast aka lost




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Eight-Burst Nebula

NGC 3132, AM 1004-401, ESO 316-27, HD 87877, HD 87892, Hen 2-40, PK 272+12 1, PN G272.1+12.3, Bennett 43, Caldwell 74, Eight-Burst Nebula, Southern Ring Nebula, h 3228, GC 2017

RA: 10h 07m 1.764s
Dec: −40° 26′ 11.06″

Con: Vela
Ch: MSA:941, U2:399, SA:20


(reference key)

Type: planetary nebula

Mag: B=10.09, V=9.87

Size: ?
PA: ?

Image gallery

Sketches  (4)

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Photos  (3)

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Eight-burst Nebula, name coined by Shapley, H. & Paraskevopoulos, J.S. (1940), p35.

Galactic and Extragalactic Studies, III. Photographs of Thirty Southern Nebulae and Clusters


Historical observations

John Herschel (1847) Cape Observations

Discovered by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope with an 18-inch f/13 speculum telescope.

He recorded it on Sweep No. 554 [1835 March 02] as "Planetary nebula, very large, very bright, elliptic; has in it a 9th mag star somewhat excentric. Its light is exactly equable, ie. not increasing towards the middle; yet I cannot help imagining it to be closely dotted. It is just like a star out of focus in certain states of the mirror and atmosphere. Three stars near, a = 9th mag; b = 9th mag; c = 14th mag; A very extraordinary object."

On the next sweep [555; 1835 March 03], it was "well seen, as described in Sweep 554, and shown to Mr. Maclear and another gentleman. The star in the nebula is 9th mag, very sharp, full and distinct. Six stars 9th mag in the field; one companion = 13th mag."

On the next occasion [Sweep 772; 1837 February 07] he called it "a perfectly well defined bright elliptic disc, diam. in RA = 4.0 seconds; major axis : minor axis about 5 : 4. In the middle is a 9th mag star, which is quite sharp, but which I think has a small disk. This star is somewhat excentrically placed. See Pl. VI. fig. 9."

His final observation [Sweep 810] was recorded as "Planetary nebula with a 10th mag star in centre; very bright; very well defined, and perfectly equable all over in light, there being no condensation up to the centre. The star is sharp, the nebula velvety, or like infinitely fine dust; a star 14th mag at a distance rather more than a radius of neb from edge (by diagram); has its position from centre = 333.8."

He sketched this and other planetary nebulae, commenting: "[these] represent planetary nebulae, a class of special interest, and of which, considering their general rarity, the southern heavens have afforded a rather unexpectedly large harvest. Those only are here delineated which have either accompanying stars, or which are distinguished by some peculiarity, as ... [NGC 3132] which has a star or a small disc near its centre; ..."

Lassell, W. (1854)

Lassell, W. (1854) Observations of the nebula of Orion, made at Valletta, with the twenty-foot equatorial. Memoirs R.A.S., 23, 53-62.

"Saturday, 12th March. RA 10h 0m, P.D. 129deg 36', Power 650. A circular nebula with stellar nucleus, about 53" in diameter. (see fig. x.)"

Figure 10

Lassell, W. (1867)

Miscellaneous Observations with the Four-foot Equatoreal at Malta

Observations of Remarkable Nebulae.

(page 42)

"Plate III. Fig. 13 - G.C. 2017, h. 3228; R.A. 10h 1m; N.P.D. 129deg 45'

A faint elliptic Planetary Nebula; transverse diameter about 67"; (a) represents the view with 760.

1862, April 16 (b) represents the view with the smaller power 285; (page 43) many stars are in the field, more than are here drawn; they are generally, however, very faint. There is a considerable similarity in this object to the annular nebula in Lyra, only it is incomparably fainter. The centre is bright, and evidently stellar. There is a minute star touching the south preceding side of the nebula. The sides of the nebula are flattened and better defined than the ends. I think the nebula in Lyra if removed very much further off would present a similar aspect. The stars marked a, b, c, in the margin of (b) are very faint."

Plate III, Figure 13

Bibcode: [1867MmRAS..36...39L]

Published comments

Innes, R.T.A. (1909)

Innes, R.T.A. & Wood, H.E. (1909) Notes on southern nebulae. Transvaal Observatory Circular, No.1, 14th December 1909, p35.

Extraordinary object. A planetary nebula 30'' approx in diameter with a star in its middle. The star is CPD -394199, 8.8P mag. 1910, May 2.

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 9 (1912)

vB, elliptic, annular rather than planetary, but the inside of the ring is almost filled by the image of the bright central star. Lassell's drawnigs (Mem RAS 23 and 36) are good.

Helwan Obs. Bulletin No 15 (1915)

vB, pS, lE 150deg approx., annular, ring fainter on up [?] side. B star not quite central, and thus probably unconnected."

Doig, P. (1925)

Doig, P. (1925) Notes on the nebulae and clusters in Webb's 'Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes' (Sixth edition, Vol.ii). Part III. Southern Objects. M.N.R.A.S., 36(3), 91.

Shapley, H. & Paraskevopoulos, J.S. (1940)

Galactic and Extragalactic Studies, III. Photographs of thirty southern nebulae and clusters. Proc. N.A.S., 26, 31-36.

Evans & Thackeray (1950)

A photographic survey of bright southern planetary nebulae. M.N.R.A.S., 110(5), 429-439.

"Shapley & Paraskevopoulos [(1940) Photographs of thirty southern nebulae and clusters., Harvard Reprints., No.184] say 'A series of photographs of varying exposurers would be necessary to bring out the intricate details.. it could well be named the '8-burst' planetary from the number of distinct arcs on the boundary of the main disc or shell. A class A star HD 87892, mag 9.5, is centrally superposed.' A photograph is given.

The object hasa complex structure, including a bean-shaped ring, very bright, with fainter, helical extensions. Dimensions about 84'' x 53''. The object is illustrated in Fig.5. Photographic manipulation has been empoyed to bring up the centre on the print, but the structure has not been falsified. There is a nucleus or foreground star on the ring in the Sp sector."

Burnham's Celestial Handbook

Burnham calls it "remarkable, very bright, large, slightly elongated, 8.2 mag; 84x52 arcseconds; 10th mag star in centre; 'Eight-Burst' nebula. ... Fine planetary nebula, located squarely on the Vela-Antlia border ... more or less comparable in size to the Ring Nebula in Lyra, NGC 3132 appears more conspicuous visually than the Ring, owing to the presence of the unusually bright central star ... the disc of the nebula is noticeably elliptical, measuring 84 x 52 arcseconds on photographs, with much diaphanous detail and a structure suggesting the appearance of several oval rings superimposed and tilted at different angles. From the complex structure on photographs it has been called the 'Eight-Burst' nebula ... In a recent study (1977) it was found that the 'central star' (HD 87892, mag 10, A0) is not truly the illuminating star of the nebula; the radiation instead is supplied by a 16th mag dwarf companion 1.65 arcseconds distant..."

Sulentic & Tifft (1973)

The RNGC (Sulentic and Tifft 1973) notes that this is a 8.0 mag planetary nebula.

Photo index

Photo Index by Jim Lucyk: Sky&Tel. 3/67 p189, Sky&Tel. 8/69 p85, Sky&Tel. 4/84 p382, Sky&Tel. 9/70 p137, Astronomy mag. 2/87 p94, Deep Sky #6 Sp84 p14, Deep Sky #17 Wi86 p13, Deep Sky Monthly 5/82 p7, Burnhams V2 p1175.

Terzian Y (1980) Q.J. R.astr.Soc vol 21, p82-92 [09.16.1] notes that the central star of this planetary is a visual binary.

Modern observations

Hartung, E.J. (1968) Astron.Obj.South.Tel

Hartung notes that "the central star is prominent in this bright white annular planetary nebula about 30 arcseconds across in a field of scattered stars. The light appears even without any of the bluish tint usual with planetary nebulae."

Walter Scott Houston

Houston notes that this planetary lies on the northern border of Vela. At 8th mag and roughly 1' across, it appears stellar at very low power, but at 50x or more its disk becomes apparent. A magnification of 100 on a 6-inch shows this planetary when conditions are right."

Tom Lorenzin

Tom Lorenzin, in the electronic version of "1000+ The Amateur Astronomers' Field Guide to Deep Sky Observing", notes: "8.2M; 84" X 52" extent; bright oblong; requires excellent S horizon."

Harrington, Phil

Harrington writes that "Vela contains one of the brightest planetary nebulae in all the heavens ... NGC 3132 shines conspicuously at 8th mag and is comparable in size to the Ring nebula in Lyra. The unusual multiloop structure ... has led astronomers to nickname it the Eight-Burst nebula. Although this configuration may not be apparent through your telescope, a slight bluish tint should be. Its central star glows at 10th magnitude, making it visible in small telescopes."

Steve Coe

Steve Coe, observing with a 13" f/5.6, notes: "Bright, large, elongated 1.5 X 1 in PA 15, much brighter in the middle with a stellar nucleus at 150X. This is a very nice planetary with a 10th mag central star that is obvious at all powers. Averted vision makes the nebulosity grow around the star. I have seen this nebula as either grey or light green on every occaison I have observed it."

[amastro] Sightseeing in Vela

Jane Houston wrote:

]Then I had to identify the triangle of three stars - zeta Puppis, lambda Velorum and gamma Velorum - a

]Wolf-Rayet star and a double star as well.. Most of the significant areas of the Gum Nebula are contained

]within this triangle, nestled between these amazing stars in this awesome section of the sky.

That's certainly a fascinating observing report on what must be a wonderful part of the sky. One of my favorite planetaries is the Eight-Burst (NGC 3132). I've only seen it once - at the Texas Star Party. In my 17.5-incher with an OIII filter, it displayed a wispy multiple-shell structure that was really beautiful.

I was wondering if you took your star spectroscope along and, if so, if you had a look at Gamma Velorum, by far the brightest Wolf-Rayet star in the sky. Its spectrum is said to be extraordinarily beautiful. Burnham's Celestial Handbook quotes Agnes Clerke, writing in 1905:

"An intensely bright line in the blue, and the gorgeous group of three bright lines in the yellow and orange, render the spectrum...incomparably the most brilliant and striking in the whole heavens."

Wolf-Rayet stars are extremely hot, with incredibly strong stellar winds, and appear to be blowing off their outer atmospheres in an almost nova-like fashion. The lower density outflowing gas results in the strong bright (emission) lines.

I've seen this "intensely bright line in the blue" only once, in the central star (HD192163/typeWN6) of the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888) in Cygnus. In this case the outflowing gases are doubly-ionized nitrogen and ionized helium. Unfortunately, at 7th magnitude HD192163 is around a hundred times fainter than Gamma Velorum. The only other bright Wolf-Rayet nebula in the northern sky I know about is Thor's Helmut (NGC 2359) in Canis Major, but at 11th magnitude its central star may be too faint to show much of a spectrum with our equipment.

Jim Shields


Hi Jim! The Eight-Burst nebula was truly beautiful in the 20 inch Obsessions as well as my 12.5 incher. I sketched pages and pages of objects with my Faber-Castell graphite set. And I audio-recorded hours of objects with a micro-cassette. It is really fun re-living the observing sessions by listening to those cassettes, and hearing my fellow observers describe objects. My top 110 includes about 14 planetaries. NGC 6302, the Bug Nebula is one of my favorites, and I had never seen the bi-polar shape so well as from Ayers Rock.

Jane Houston

James, Andrew (1998+)

From: "Neat Southern Planetaries - III."

NGC 3132 / The Eight-Burst Nebula / PK 272+12.1 (10070-1026) is so named because of the prominent filaments that can be seen radiating around its centre in astronomical photographs. Little needs to be said about this object. In the last twenty years, I found no less than seventeen, (Of which eight are observational descriptions) references to this object in UNIVERSE alone! [The latest, is Andrew Murrell's article on planetaries in (UNIVERSE June 1997 pg.8), includes a CCD image of this object.] A detailed description of this in likely unnecessary. It would be far too long! The planetary NGC 3132 lies on the boarder of Vela and Antlia, in the northern part of Vela whose nearest star is q Velorum 2.2O to the northwest.

As a planetary is extremely bright - even for small telescopes in our light polluted city skies. The nebula is slightly blue in colour and definitely oval in shape, covering a size of about 25"-30"sec.arc. Sky Atlas 2000.0 states the size as >47"sec.arc., though telescopically this at maximum is about 30"sec.arc. Astronomical photography covers a size about 85"x53"sec.arc. Hubble observations have it now extended this to over 100"sec.arc. Integrated magnitude of the nebulae is currently estimated to be 8.8 (1990), some 0.4 magnitudes fainter than the 'standard texts', but the photographic magnitude is stated as 8.2.

Unusual among the planetaries is the prominent white 10th magnitude central star, though a telescope greater than 15cm. is required to see it. This star is also a known binary, having a 16th magnitude companion, some 1.6"sec.arc away. Unfortunately, this is beyond the reach of most amateur telescopes. It is thought in the literature that it is this star, and not the 10th magnitude primary that is responsible for illuminating the nebula. Simply, the presumed progenitor does not produce enough ultraviolet to illuminate the gas. The planetary nebula nucleus is a bright example of the Wolf-Rayet class of stars, having a surface temperature around 135 000O!

The nebulosity comprises of a H/He ratio of 12.7%, and an excess of Nitrogen that is higher than most of the other planetaries known. This suggests that the mass of the star was originally about 2.4 Solar Masses, at the lower limit for stars that can produce planetary nebulae.

In size the circumstellar bubble is estimated to be nearly one light year across, expanding at a relatively slow rate of about 15 kms-1, and a having a mass estimated to be 0.06 Solar Masses. Hartung (AOST1&2) states that the distance is about 600 parsecs, though the more recent literature places it a bit further away at around 800 parsecs or 2 600 light-years. The planetary is approaching the Sun at a velocity about 20 kms-1.

In summary, this object is impressive, real impressive!

Surrounding fields to about 5O are frankly 'boring'.

Brian Skiff

15cm - fine lg & br neb w/m10 cen * (br!). 295x: oval elong SE-NW in 5:4 ratio; length of short side = sep of two m10.5 *s SE. NW end is more diffuse than remainder. cen * eccentric to E side of neb. *ing NE of it on outer rim; two(?) fntr spots on opposite side, where rim of annulus is best defined. dk patch SW of cen *; generally wk mottled otherwise. [OIII] filt helpful in supressing * so neb can be viewed. BS, 24Feb1990, LCO.

Contemporary observations

Auke Slotegraaf


Observing from the 1500 metre plateau of the SAAO observing site in Sutherland, 11x80 binoculars shows this nebula as one of a field of 8th mag stars.

1994 January 23

1994-01-23, Die Boord, 11x80 binoculars. This planetary is easily seen in handheld binoculars as a faint 9th mag glow on a field well-sown with similar stars. The planetary forms the northern tip of a lazy-W of five 9th mag stars, which extends southwards from the nebula.

1995 May 30

1995-05-30: 11x80.Technopark. 23:00 SAST. Hazy sky. Do I see it or the 9th mag star on its edge?

1998 February 18

1998 February 18/19, Stellenbosch Rifle Range site, 11x80 tripod-mounted, 5.8 naked eye. Equal to a star of 9th mag; near a group of similar small stars.

Magda Streicher

1997 April 5

Location: Campsite (23 16 South 29 26 East)

Sky conditions: 7 magnitude clear.

Instrument: Meade 8" (Super wide angle 18mm eyepiece)

This planetary nebula is bright and round with sharp edges with a star about 8 magnitude in the middle. Slightly elliptical, even light without any tint of colour. To the one side of the field is a bright double star. Small in size.

1998 February 27

Location: Campsite (23 16 South 29 26 East)

Sky conditions: 7 magnitude clear.

Instrument: Meade 8" (Super wide angle 18mm eyepiece)

Meade 8" (Super fossel 26mm) Field of view 40.6

A cup of faint stars holds this planetary nebula in its palm.

2008 June 13

NGC 3132 Vela (eight-burst) nebula

Tel: 16" S/C 102x - 127x - 290x - Date: 13 June 2008 - Site: Pburg - Good

High power reveal a clown face. Also known as the southern ring nebula. High power show the center star quite well. Low power the nebula looks somewhat like a out of focus star, while high power is is more sharply defined. Bluish-white in colour.

(no date)

8-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 1.25-inch 26mm SP 77x 41' fov; 1.25-inch 18mm SW 111x 36' fov) and 12-inch f/10 SCT (EP: 2-inch 40mm SW 76x 53' fov; 2-inch 14mm 218x 23' fov)

This planetary also called the Eight Burst nebula is bright, oval-round, with a well-defined edge and an estimated 10th magnitude star a little off centre. Slightly elongated in a north-south direction and pale white in colour. Not visible in this nebula is the absence of the characteristic blue colour, emblem of a planetary nebula (218x). Two equal 10th magnitude stars visible 2'.5 arc minutes to the southeast as well as a stately 10th magnitude visual double 5' arc minutes towards the west. A cup of faint stars to the northeast holds this planetary nebula in its palm. The 10th magnitude star in the centre (HD 87892) is not the one illuminating the nebula, the culprit is a 16th magnitude dwarf companion 1.65" arc seconds away. Discovered by Sir John Herschel at the Cape of Good Hope with an 18-inch f/13 speculum telescope.

Richard Ford

2015, April, 18th



Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible.Haziness only visible on the horizon.Atmosphere stable with little interference.

Instrument:12-inch Dobsonian.

This planetary nebula has a ring-like shape in appearance at both 167x and 214x with a bright central star seen in the middle of this nebula and that this nebula's ring-like shape glows with a fairly white greenish glow.This planetary nebula measures 7.1'x 5.9'.Chart No:374,NSOG,Vol.3.

2012 February 19, Sun


Instrument:12-Dobsonian Reflector Telescope.


Sky Conditions:The fainter parts of the Milky Way are barely visible.

Transparency Of the Sky:Haziness only visible on the horizon.

Seeing:Atmosphere stable with little interference.

This planetary nebula has a soft elongated and almost roundish shape where its central star is seen giving of light to this nebula.Around the central star in this planetary nebula its outer shells of gas looks almost like a smoke ring at both 167* and 214'.This planetary nebula also has a pale blue shape.

It measures 1'*0.3'.

Challenge Rating:Moderately Easy.

Carol Botha

2011 -12 -07

Location:Betty's Bay

Time: 22:30

Telescope: 12 Dobsonian f4,9. Eyepiece 15mm. FOV- 36

Sky conditions: Seeing 3/5 (intermittent high cloud cover)

Actual dimensions: 0.8'x 0.8'(Cartes Du Ciel)

Object description:

Planetary nebula in Vela

Bright disk with slightly blue shell which seems slightly elongated N-S. The nebula is framed by a diamond shaped group of stars.

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