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Ghostly veil in space

Part of the Veil Nebula

The eastern section of the Veil Nebula, part of a much larger nebula called the Cygnus Loop.

HANGING IN SPACE LIKE A GHOSTLY curtain in space is the Veil Nebula, part of a much larger nebula called the Cygnus Loop.

The Cygnus Loop is the expanding gas cloud remnant of a supernova (exploded star) which happened between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago. It is almost 1,500 light-years from Earth.

In effect it is a giant gas bubble in space, and what we see is the edge of the bubble. It’s also very large—about 90 light-years wide. If we could see the whole Loop with the naked eye in the night sky, it would appear three times wider than the full Moon.

The entire Loop can be picked up a certain special wavelengths, but at visible light wavelengths only part of it is visible. The Veil Nebula is one of those parts.

The image above shows the eastern part of the Veil, and was taken with the Wide Field Camera on the Isaac Newton Telescope in the Canary Islands.

It is a combination of three images made with special filters: one that brings out the presence of hydrogen (coloured red in the image), one that highlights doubly ionised oxygen (green) and one that reveals sulphur (blue).

See the full-size image here. Warning – huge file! 3.67MB – 6,079 x 3,880 pixels.

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) comprises the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT), the 2.5m Isaac Newton Telescope (INT), and the 1.0m Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (JKT), operating on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, Spain.

The Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes is operated on behalf of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Nederlanse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO), and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). The STFC, the NWO, and the IAC have entered into collaborative agreements for the operation of and the sharing of observing time on the ING telescopes.

Story copyright Jonathan Nally, Additional info courtesy ING. Image courtesy of the IAC astrophotography group (A. Oscoz, D. López, P. Rodríguez-Gil and L. Chinarro).

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