This, as many of you probably know, is the Ring Nebula (also known as M57). The nebula can be found in the constellation Lyra at a distance of about 2,300 light-years.
This particular image is a treat because it is a more in-depth view of this famous nebula. With the assistance of the Hubble Space Telescope as well as the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, we are able to see the ‘invisible’ cloud of dust and gas surrounding M57 and its central star.
A Planetary nebula is created in the death throes of a medium-sized star (such as our Sun). The star sheds its outer layers and that subsequent cloud becomes ionized by the energy being produced by the star. Eventually, the star shrivels up into a white dwarf and the cloud loses its ionization and fades from view forever.
See a larger image here, or download various sizes.