The Dumbbell Nebula, M27, was the first planetary nebula ever discovered. On July 12, 1764, Charles Messier discovered this new and fascinating class of objects, and describes this one as an oval nebula without stars.
This planetary nebula is certainly the most impressive object of its kind in the sky, as the angular diameter of the luminous body is nearly 6 arc minutes, with a faint halo extensing out to over 15', half the apparent diameter of the Moon (Millikan 1974). It is also among the brightest, being at most little less luminous with its estimated apparent visual magnitude 7.4 than the brightest, the Helix Nebula NGC 7293 in Aquarius, with 7.3 magnitude.
As for most planetary nebulae, the distance of M27 (and thus true dimension and intrinsic luminosity) is not very well known. Hynes gives about 800, Kenneth Glyn Jones 975, Mallas/Kreimer 1250 light years, while other existing estimates reach from 490 to 3500 light years. Currently, investigations with the Hubble Space Telescope are under work to determine a more reliable and acurate value for the distance of the Dumbbell Nebula.