Explanation: The prominent ridge of emission featured in this vivid skyscape is designated IC 5067. Part of a larger emission region with a distinctive shape, popularly called The Pelican Nebula, the ridge spans about 10 light-years and follows the curve of the cosmic pelican’s head and neck. Fantastic, dark shapes inhabiting the view are clouds of cool gas and dust sculpted by energetic radiation from young, hot, massive stars. But stars are also forming within the dark shapes. Twin jets emerging from the tip of the long, dark tendril left of center are the telltale signs of an embedded protostar cataloged as Herbig-Haro 555 (HH 555). In fact, other Herbig-Haro objects indicating the presence of protostars are found within the frame. The Pelican Nebula itself, also known as IC 5070, is about 2,000 light-years away. To find it, look northeast of bright star Deneb in the high flying constellation Cygnus.
Explanation: The beautiful Trifid Nebula, also known as Messier 20, lies about 5,000 light-years away, a colorful study in cosmic contrasts. It shares this nearly 1 degree wide field with open star cluster Messier 21 (top left). Trisected by dust lanes the Trifid itself is about 40 light-years across and a mere 300,000 years old. That makes it one of the youngest star forming regions in our sky, with newborn and embryonic stars embedded in its natal dust and gas clouds. Estimates of the distance to open star cluster M21 are similar to M20’s, but though they share this gorgeous telescopic skyscape there is no apparent connection between the two. M21’s stars are much older, about 8 million years old. M20 and M21 are easy to find with even a small telescope in the nebula rich constellation Sagittarius. In fact, this well-composed scene is a composite from two different telescopes. Using narrowband data it blends a high resolution image of M20 with a wider field image extending to M21.
Yeah, this is yesterday’s APOD, but I don’t recall having seen the Spaghetti Nebula before, and the picture is simply fantastic. Enjoy your weekend!
Explanation: It’s easy to get lost following intricate filaments in this detailed image of faint supernova remnant Simeis 147. Also cataloged as Sharpless 2-240 it goes by the popular nickname, the Spaghetti Nebula. Seen toward the boundary of the constellations Taurus and Auriga, it covers nearly 3 degrees or 6 full moons on the sky. That’s about 150 light-years at the stellar debris cloud’s estimated distance of 3,000 light-years. This composite includes image data taken through narrow-band filters, enhancing the reddish emission from ionized hydrogen atoms to trace the shocked, glowing gas. The supernova remnant has an estimated age of about 40,000 years, meaning light from the massive stellar explosion first reached Earth 40,000 years ago. But the expanding remnant is not the only aftermath. The cosmic catastrophe also left behind a spinning neutron star or pulsar, all that remains of the original star’s core.
Another beautiful image from Terry Hancock at Down Under Observatory.
7000 light-years distant in the constellation of Cassiopeia lies the emission nebula colloquially known as the Soul Nebula. The gasses (mostly hydrogen) that comprise the nebula are being ionized by the stars within the region and as a result, the gasses glow, much like a neon sign.
The pressures exerted upon the material by the stars nearby are causing the material to become compressed. When enough of the gas becomes highly compacted, it triggers the birth of new stars. In effect, this is a beautiful snapshot of a multimillion-year process of an enormous cloud of dust and gas transforming itself into new stars.
— written by Adam Stirek
A gaze across a cosmic skyscape, this telescopic mosaic reveals the continuous beauty of things that are. The evocative scene spans some 6 degrees or 12 Full Moons in planet Earth’s sky. At the left, folds of red, glowing gas are a small part of an immense, 300 light-year wide arc. Known as Barnard’s loop, the structure is too faint to be seen with the eye, shaped by long gone supernova explosions and the winds from massive stars, and still traced by the light of hydrogen atoms. Barnard’s loop lies about 1,500 light-years away roughly centered on the Great Orion Nebula, a stellar nursery along the edge of Orion’s molecular clouds. But beyond lie other fertile star fields in the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. At the right, the long-exposure composite finds NGC 2170, a dusty complex of nebulae near a neighboring molecular cloud some 2,400 light-years distant.
In honor of Halloween, I present a creepy red spider. (Also, to the left of the nebula’s maw-like core, you can see a skull. Hat tip to Extrarice for noticing this.)
Oh what a tangled web a planetary nebula can weave. The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star ejects its outer gases and becomes a white dwarf star. Officially tagged NGC 6537, this two-lobed symmetric planetary nebula houses one of the hottest white dwarfs ever observed, probably as part of a binary star system. Internal winds emanating from the central stars, visible in the center, have been measured in excess of 1000 kilometers per second. These winds expand the nebula, flow along the nebula’s walls, and cause waves of hot gas and dust to collide. Atoms caught in these colliding shocks radiate light shown in the above representative-color picture by the Hubble Space Telescope. The Red Spider Nebula lies toward the constellation of the Archer (Sagittarius). It’s distance is not well known but has been estimated by some to be about 4,000 light-years.