PV Cep (Image Credit: NASA/ESA) (See a larger image here.)

Out there in the cosmos, it's pretty uncommon to find something that doesn't look like something found on Earth. While this region isn't nearly as recognizable as, say, the Helix nebula (a region with an uncanny resemblance to a huge eye), or the Butterfly nebula (both seen below), it still has properties that make it appear similar in shape to a fan.

Called Gyulbudaghian’s Nebula (sometimes known as the less subtle 'GM 1-29'), this region, which lies some 1,600 light-years away in the Cepheus constellation, has several key features, which include the bright orb inhabiting the edge of the fan (known as PV Cephei), along with the accompanying nebulosity.

Interestingly, over the last half of a decade, astronomers have noticed discernible changes in its luminosity and its shape (however, the former is commonplace, given the number of variable stars that exist). Astronomers posit that a short-lived phenomenon accounts for the mysterious streak found more than 60 years ago that vanished and reappeared, going further to suggest it might actually be related to the extrasolar equivalent of a solar flare.

With the brightening, it's likely that these changes coincided with the star passing the threshold from protostar to fully fledged, main-sequence mode (when star starts fusing hydrogen into helium).

"PV Cep is thought to be surrounded by a disc of gas and dust, which would stop light from escaping in all directions. The fan-like appearance is therefore probably a result of starlight escaping from the dust disc and projecting onto the nebula," said the ESA.


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