DR 6 nebula ("Galactic Ghoul"). This is a star-forming region in the constellation Cygnus, with the central region (the "nose") about 3.5 light years across. The nebula's nickname comes from its resemblance to a ghoulish face, with cavities in the cloud looking rather like two eyes and a devouring mouth. (Credit: S. Carey (Caltech), JPL-Caltech, NASA) Mona Evans, "Cosmic Ghosts Ghouls and Vampires" http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art181890.asp
What powers the Heart Nebula? The large emission nebula dubbed IC 1805 looks, in whole, like a human heart. The nebula glows brightly in red light emitted by its most prominent element: hydrogen. The red glow and the larger shape are all created by a small group of stars near the nebula's center. A close up spanning about 30 light years contains many of these stars is shown above in a recent image taken by the Canada France Hawaii Telescope. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap041208.html
Little Ghost Nebula. (NGC 6369) (Credit: Hubble Heritage Team, NASA) A planetary nebula in the constellation Ophiucus over 2000 light years away. William Herschel discovered it in the18th century. It's round like a planet, but was actually formed from material ejected by a dying star. What remains of the star is the white dwarf near the center. The nebula's main ring structure is about a light-year across. Mona Evans, “Nebulae” http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art43407.asp
Witch's Broom Nebula. It's part of the Veil Nebula (NGC 6960), the remains of a supernova that exploded more than 15,000 years ago. The bright star (52 Cygnus) near the center of the image isn't associated with the supernova. (Credit: T. A. Rector / University of Alaska Anchorage and WIYN /NOAO/AURA/NSF) Mona Evans, "Cosmic Halloween Tour" http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art52161.asp
The Red Spider Planetary Nebula shows the complex structure that can result when a normal star becomes a white dwarf star. Officially tagged NGC 6537, this two-lobed symmetric nebula houses one of the hottest white dwarfs ever observed, probably as part of binary star system. Internal winds emanating from the central stars, shown in the central inset, have been measured in over 300 k/second. These hot winds expand the nebula, flow along the nebula's walls, and cause gas and dust to collide.
The Stingray Nebula. Stingray's emerging bubbles and rings of shocked and ionized gas. The gas is energized by the hot central star as it nears the end of its life, evolving toward a final white dwarf phase. The image also shows a companion star (at about 10 o'clock) within the nebula. Astronomers suspect that such companions account for the complex shapes and rings of this and many other planetary nebulae. This cosmic infant is about 130 times the size of our own solar system and growing.
A photogenic group of nebulae can be found in Chamaeleon, a constellation visible predominantly in skies south of the Earth's equator. Towards Chamaeleon, dark molecular clouds and bright planetary nebula NGC 3195 can be found. Visible near the center of the above photograph is a reflection nebula surrounding a young bright star. On the lower right, a dark molecular cloud blocks the light from stars behind it.
One of the most identifiable nebulae in the sky, the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, is part of a large, dark, molecular cloud. Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left.
How did this nebula get created? The Cocoon Nebula, cataloged as IC 5146, is a strikingly beautiful nebula located about 4,000 light years away toward the constellation of Cygnus. Inside the Cocoon is a newly developing open cluster of stars. Like other stellar nurseries, the Cocoon Nebula is, at the same time, an emission nebula, a reflection nebula, and an absorption nebula. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap021014.html
The bright clusters and nebulae of planet Earth's night sky are often named for flowers or insects, and NGC 6302 is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees C, the central star of this particular planetary nebula is exceptionally hot though -- shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. Above is a dramatically detailed close-up of the dying star's nebula
A grinning one-eyed skull? Actually it's NGC 5189, a complex planetary nebula around a dying star. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/S.Carey (Caltech)) Mona Evans, "Cosmic Halloween Tour" http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art52161.asp
Baby stars are forming near the eastern rim of the cosmic cloud Perseus in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The baby stars are approximately three million years old and are shown as reddish-pink dots to the right of the image.
M57: The Ring Nebula This planetary nebula's simple, graceful appearance is thought to be due to perspective -- our view from planet Earth looking straight into what is actually a barrel-shaped cloud of gas shrugged off by a dying central star. Hot blue gas near the energizing central star gives way to progressively cooler green and yellow gas at greater distances with the coolest red gas along the outer boundary. Dark, elongated structures can also be seen near the nebula's edge.
Jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years, one of our galaxy's largest star forming regions. Like the smaller, more northerly Great Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is easily visible to the unaided eye, though at a distance of 7,500 light-years it is some 5 times farther away.
The Ghost Nebula (vdB 141). It's a reflection nebula in the constellation Cepheus. The light of stars embedded in the nebula give it the brown color that looks a bit liked dried blood. (Image credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF) Mona Evans, "Cosmic Halloween Tour" http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art52161.asp
Cotton Candy Nebula - The nebula known as N11, complete with sparkly star clusters embedded in fluffy pink clouds of gas. This exceptionally energetic star-forming region, also known as the Bean Nebula, extends over 1,000 light-years in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Three generations of star formation have created shells of gas and dust which are being blown away by radiation from the newborn stars.