The Winner is: The Dumbbell Nebula
This color image of the Messier 27, A.K.A. Dumbbell nebula, was taken through the SARA north 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The Dumbbell sits over 1,360 light years from Earth and hosts a super-sized white dwarf in its central regions. The colorful regions are actually the gas that used to make up the star before it died in a "Helium Flash", blowing of the outer layers of the star while the core collapsed into a white dwarf. As part of an observational astronomy lab assignment, Images through V, R, and I filters were reduced and examined. The best matching images in each color were then read into MIRA, and image processing routine, aligned, and then color combined. The result is this striking image of the Dumbbell nebula. The students in the observational astronomy compete each year to get the "Prettiest picture" which is then featured at the Stocker picture of the week site. The students responsible for this image is Daniel Pacheco and his lab partners.