FromQuarkstoQuasars

Astronomy Photo of the Day: 6/23/14 – The North American Nebula

Jaime TrosperJune 23rd 2014
Image Credit: Andrew Butler
Image Credit: Andrew Butler

If this nebula is reminiscent of something “worldly” to you, you are correct. This is the North American nebula, named as such due to its similarities to the overall shape of North America, but it’s obviously very different in size and composition (not to mention distance).

The stellar region is located more than 1,600 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus (the Swan). The only thing more astonishing than the colors is the sheer size of this bad boy, which is believed to be the result of one singular star (possibly located at the geometric center of the hydrogen complex). It stretches over an expanse of space that is more than 50 light-years in height and 40 light-years in width – meaning this nebula alone would take up the same space as three full moons in our sky (assuming the nebula was bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye).

Also contained therein is NGC 6977, an open cluster of stars found in the “east coast” of the region. These stars indicate that the nebula is an active star-forming region,but it’s still just a small piece of a much larger picture (it counts the Pelican nebula as one of its neighbors).

See a larger image here.

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