The Ring Nebula apparently has been misnamed: It’s not a ring at all, but a football-shaped jelly doughnut. A group of scientists reported this conclusion in a statement Thursday following a first-ever video reconstruction of the interstellar body based on sloughs of images from the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories.
Scientists have known of the Ring Nebula, also known as Messier 57, for centuries. French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix first spotted it in 1779, and German nobleman Count Friedrich von Hahn made repeated observations of it over several years leading up to 1800. Von Hahn recorded seeing changes in the cloud’s middle: He saw a faint star at the center in his first sightings, but no more central star in his latter sightings.