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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