Image Credit: Image Data - Bob Caton, Al Howard, Eric Zbinden & Rogelio Bernal Andreo; who also did processing.

 

The clouds of Cygnus, which cover a full 12x12 degrees of our night sky, can be found about 2,000 light-years away in the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way  (in a constellation of the same name). Each speck of light illuminating the region is a distant star. Many are actually multiple star systems that appear as one large star. Some may even be similar to our sun, with Earth-like planets orbiting them from a distance that would allow liquid water to exist on the surface.

 

Below the center of the image and near the left edge, is a blue-white super-giant "Alpha-star" known as Deneb. Coming in at an apparent magnitude of 1.25, it is the 19th brightest star in our night sky. Since the exact distance is difficult to determine, it is believed to be between 54,000 and 196,000 times more luminous than the sun. Lying next to Deneb is a dark void known as the Northern Coal Sack -- a part of a series of obscuring dust clouds within the galaxy, which form the Great Rift. Just below it, are both the North America nebula (NGC 7000) and the Pelican nebula (IC 5070).

 

Another luminous super-giant star can be found near the center of the field, just above the wings of the famed Butterfly Nebula, known as Sadr (Gamma Cygni). Also included in this image is the Crescent nebula, which can be found if you draw a line continuing up and just to the right from the Butterfly nebula. Finally, the Tulip Nebula can be seen near the very top of the frame.

 

This skyscape is a composite, stitched together using a combination of broad and narrow-band images from the Hubble Space Telescope palette -- in infrared, ultraviolet and optical light. The blue areas in this image are dusty clouds, and the orange is mainly hot gas.


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