September 26, 2012
New La Silla Observatory Image Shows Seagull Nebula
Watch the Video: [ Zooming in on the Seagull Nebula ]
Watch the Video: [ Panning Across the Head of the Seagull Nebula ]
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
This nebula looks like the head of the seagull, and glows brightly due to the energetic radiation from a hot young star that sits at its heart.
Nebulae are interstellar clouds of dust, molecules, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases where new stars are being born. They come in different shapes and colors, and can sometimes lead to peculiar names due to the shapes they form.
The new image was taken by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 7-feet telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. The Seagull Nebula is just one part of the larger nebula known formally as IC 2177, which spans over 100 light-years across.
The cloud of gas pictured is located about 3,700 light-years away from Earth, and it lies just on the border between the constellations of Monoceros and Canis Major.
The gas and dust that forms the head of the seagull glows brightly in the sky due to the strong ultraviolet radiation coming from one star, HD 53367, that can be spotted in the center of the image and could be taken as the seagull's eye.
The radiation from the young stars causes the surrounding hydrogen gas to glow with a rich red color and become an HII region.
Light seen from the hot blue-white stars is also scattered off the tiny dust particles in the nebula to create a contrasting blue haze.
Part of the Seagull Nebula was observed for the first time by the German-British astronomer Sir William Herschel in 1785, but the part shown in the latest image was seen about a century later.