The Eye of the Bird


A seagull glares from a cloud of gas glowing by the light of a new star in the eye of the bird in this image of the Seagull Nebula from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the hot clouds of glowing gas as well as tendrils of cold dust in this stellar nursery also known as Sharpless 2-292.

The head of this nebular bird is just a small part of a larger nebula known as IC 2177. The whole expanse spans across 100 light years. Strong ultraviolet radiation streaming from the new star – looking like the seagull’s eye – excites molecular hydrogen in the star cloud causing it to glow a characteristic red. Visible light from the blue-white star, known by astronomers as HD 53367, scatters off of tiny dust particles in the nebula giving a contrasting blue haze throughout the image. HD 53367 is a type B star and is about twenty times more massive than our Sun.

The Seagull Nebula lies about 3,700 light-years from Earth toward the border between the constellations Monoceros, the Unicorn, and Canis Major, the Great Dog. Although the nebula lies close to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, it is 400 times farther away than the nearby Dog Star. This image was produced from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, high in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

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The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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