Pleiades Star Cluster and the California Nebula

November 22, 2014


Photographer: Pedro Santos
Summary Authors: Pedro Santos; Jim Foster

The image above features the well-known Pleiades open star cluster at right and the California Nebula at left. It was taken from Sever do Vouga, Portugal, on December 12, 2013. The Pleiades is also referred to as M45 and the Seven Sisters. It looks like a tiny, misty dipper of stars. They're easily visible to the naked eye, even in many urban areas. M45, some 425 light years distant, is surrounded by a spectacular blue reflection nebula. Since the Pleiades are positioned not far from the Celestial Equator, it can be seen from near the Earth's North Pole to the southern tip of South America.

The California Nebula (NGC 1499) is an emission nebula named for the fact that its shape is somewhat similar to the outline of the U.S. state of California. It's considerably dimmer than the Pleiades, not only because of its greater distance, approximately 1,500 light years away, but because of its low surface brightness. It can only be seen in very dark skies -- look for it in the constellation of Perseus.

Photo details: Canon 350D camera; Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens; f/4.5 aperture; ISO 800; 3 hours and 8 minutes exposure.