Flaming Star Nebula

March 19, 2008

031908 copy

Provided by: Greg Parker, University of Southampton, U.K.
Summary authors & editors: Greg Parker, Stu Witmer

The photo above was acquired at the New Forest Observatory in Hampshire, U.K. It shows both the Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405), at top right center and object IC 410 at the lower left. Both are in the constellation Auriga (oh-RYE-gah). Auriga, Latin for "Charioteer," was one of the first constellations to be named. It contains several binary stars and even a trinary star. The pentagon shaped constellation is the source of the Aurigid meteor showers and is the first constellation to come into sight in the Northern Hemisphere's winter as well as the last to go over the horizon in spring.

AE Aurigae is a variable, or runaway, star that originated in Orion's Belt. The Flaming Star Nebula can be seen from Earth because AE Aurigae is passing though the nebula. While it passes, the flood of ultraviolet light from the star lights up the cloud of gas. The nebula measures over 9 light years across and is nearly 2,200 light years from Earth. Seen from Earth the Flaming Star Nebula has a diameter of nearly half a degree, similar to that of the full Moon.

Object IC 410, sometimes called "The Tadpoles," is a region of faint nebulosity surrounding an open star cluster that lies approximately 12,000 light years away.

Photo details: Image was taken using a 90 mm aperture refractor and 6 Megapixel one-shot color CCD. The image is composed of 6 hours of H-alpha data and 5 1/2 hours of RGB. Noel Carboni (Florida, U.S.) processed the stacked and color-converted data. Photo taken in November 2007.