Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2010 November 12
Explanation: Like delicate cosmic petals, these clouds of interstellar dust and gas have blossomed 1,300 light-years away in the fertile star fields of the constellation Cepheus. Sometimes called the Iris Nebula and dutifully catalogued as NGC 7023, this is not the only nebula in the sky to evoke the imagery of flowers. Still, this beautiful digital image shows off the Iris Nebula's range of colours and symmetries in impressive detail. Within the Iris, dusty nebular material surrounds a hot, young star. The dominant colour of the brighter reflection nebula is blue, characteristic of dust grains reflecting starlight. Central filaments of the dusty clouds glow with a faint reddish photoluminesence as some dust grains effectively convert the star's invisible ultraviolet radiation to visible red light. Infrared observations indicate that this nebula may contain complex carbon molecules known as PAHs. As shown here, the bright blue portion of the Iris Nebula is about six light-years across.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.