The Ring Nebula, also known as M57, is a planetary nebula found 2,000 lightyears away in the Lyra constellation.
It is perhaps one of the most iconic and beautiful planetary nebulae known to astronomers and astrophotographers on Earth, due to the fact that it is angled favourably from our perspective, so we can marvel at its majestic appearance.
Planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets, but are a result of an ageing, Sun-like star ejecting its outer shells of cosmic material into space, producing a spherical, puffed-out shape.
Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that the Ring Nebula actually consists of an inner, rugby ball-shaped region of gas seen end-on from Earth (blue in the image below) that is piercing the outer red ring-shaped material.
Read our guide to the best planetary nebulae to spot in the night sky.
Hubble has helped to define the shape of the Ring Nebula, revealing it to be doughnut shaped, with lower density material at its core. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
The nebula lies south of the bright star Vega, which makes up the famous asterism the Summer Triangle (one of the best summer constellations and asterisms, in our opinion).
It is the 57th entry in Charles Messier‘s famous catalogue of deep-sky objects, known as the Messier Catalogue.
It was discovered by French astronomer Antoine Darquier de Pellepoix in January 1779.
Below is a selection of images of the Ring Nebula captured by BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers and astrophotographers from around the world.
For more information about astrophotography, read our astrophotography guides or find out our pick of the best astrophotography cameras.
If sketching is more your thing, read our guide on how to draw a nebula.
And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
M57 the ring Nebula. Credit: Christoph Kaltseis / CCDGuide.com
M57 and its outer rings by Anna Morris, Norton, Suffolk, UK. Equipment: Celestron CPC800XLT, Atik 314L+, StarlightXpress Lodestar, Astronomik Ha, L, R, G, B.
M 57 by Peter Taylor, UK. Equipment: Meade RCX400 10″ Camera SX H9C, SX Lodestar ZS80IIED, PHD, Photoshop, Maxim.
M57 Ring nebula by Alan Mcgough, Manchester, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher Skymax 127 5″ Maksutov scope, Canon 1000D DSLR.
Ring Nebula by Thomas Davison, Somerset, UK. Equipment: 130mm Reflector, Adapted webcam.
M57 – The Ring Nebula by David Burr, Wimborne, Dorset, UK. Equipment: Celestron C8-SGT with Canon 500d digital camera.
M57 The Ring Nebula by Mark Griffith, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK. Equipment: Celestron c11 sct, skywatcher NEQ6 pro mount, Canon Eos 1100d self-modified and Astronomik CLS CCD clip filter.
M57 Credit: André van der Hoeven, Terry Hancock, Fred Herrmann, Mike van den Berg and Mathijn Ippel, The Netherlands/USA. Equipment: Celestron C11 with SXV-H9, Astro-tech 12″ RC with SBIG STT-8300, Astro-tech 12″ RC with QHY-9, Planewave 12,5″ with SBIG ST-11000, Planewave 17″ with SBIG ST-11000
The Ring Nebula by David Burr, Wimborne, UK. Equipment: Canon Eos 650D with Williams Optics 120mm Refractor and Celestron CGEM mount.
M57 – Ring Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 150 6″, EQ3-2 mount, Unmodded Canon 350d.
Ring Nebula by Jaspal Chadha, JK Observatory, London. Equipment: Altair Astro RC 250 TT, QSI 690 CCD EQ8 Mount, 3 x 1 subs LRGB
M57 Ring Nebula by Mark Large, Colchester, UK. Equipment: Williams Optics FLT 110 with modified Canon EOS 1000d.
Ring Nebula by Stephen Gill, Yorkshire Dales, UK. Equipment: Celestron C11 on NEQ6 mount, modified Canon 600D.
M57 – Ring Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 150p, HEQ5 Pro GOTO, Modded Canon 1000d, CLS Clip Filter, Skywatcher Coma Corrector, QHY5L-II, PHD2, ST80 Guidescope.
M57 Ring Nebula by Martin Pyott, St Andrews, Fife, UK. Equipment: LUNT 80mm ED Refractor, ZWO ASI 120 MC-S CMOS Planetary webcam.
M57 – Ring Nebula by Mark Large, Colchester, UK. Equipment: Altair Astro 10 inch RCT and a modified Canon EOS 1000D.
Messier 57 Ring nebula + IC 1296 by Jason Wiseman, Devon, UK. Equipment: CPC C9.25, Nikon D90 modded.
Ring Nebula, M57 by Ronald Piacenti Junior, Padre Bernardo, Goias, Brazil. Equipment: Celestron XLT C6 Schmidt Cassegrain, SkyWatcher HEQ5Pro Mount, ZWO ASI174MC camera.