Astronomy Picture of the Day

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.

2008 January 17
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Thor's Emerald Helmet
Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Explanation: This helmet-shaped cosmic cloud with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across. In fact, the helmet is actually more like an interstellar bubble, blown as a fast wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's centre sweeps through a surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the central star is an extremely hot giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. Catalogued as NGC 2359, the nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The sharp image captures striking details of the nebula's filamentary structures and also records an almost emerald colour from strong emission due to oxygen atoms in the glowing gas.

Tomorrow's picture: Star Wars in NGC 2770

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