14 December 2016 | Veil Nebula

Veil nebula

Credit: Team Cielboreal | Click image to enlarge or here for full size (10MB)

Image Data

  • Location: Vagney, France
  • Date: April to September 2016
  • Camera: Moravian G4-16000
  • Optics: TEC160FL + AP155
  • Mount: Paramount MX+
  • Exposure: Ha 3nm 447 x 1200s 1×1, OIII 3nm 390 x 1200s 1×1, Sii 3nm 407 x 1200s 1×1, total: 414h40m

Deriving its name from its delicate, draped filamentary structures, the beautiful Veil Nebula is one of the best-known supernova remnants. It formed from the violent death of a star twenty times the mass of the Sun that exploded about 8000 years ago. Located roughly 2100 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan), this brightly coloured cloud of glowing debris spans approximately 110 light-years.

Despite the nebula’s complexity and distance from us, the movement of some of its delicate structures is clearly visible – particularly the faint red hydrogen filaments.

Astronomers suspect that before the Veil Nebula’s source star exploded it expelled a strong stellar wind. This wind blew a large cavity into the surrounding interstellar gas. As the shock wave from the supernova expands outwards, it encounters the walls of this cavity – and forms the nebula’s distinctive structures. Bright filaments are produced as the shock wave interacts with a relatively dense cavity wall, whilst fainter structures are generated by regions nearly devoid of material. The Veil Nebula’s colourful appearance is generated by variations in the temperatures and densities of the chemical elements present.

The blue coloured features – outlining the cavity wall – appear smooth and curved in comparison to the fluffy green and red coloured ones. This is because the gas traced by the blue filter has more recently encountered the nebula’s shock wave, thus still maintain the original shape of the shock front. These features also contain hotter gas than the red and green coloured ones. The latter excited longer ago and have subsequently diffused into more chaotic structures.

Hidden amongst these bright, chaotic structures lie a few thin, sharply edged, red coloured filaments. These faint hydrogen emission features are created through a totally different mechanism than that which generates their fluffy red companions, and they provide scientists with a snapshot of the shock front. The red colour arises after gas is swept into the shock wave – which is moving at almost 1.5 million kilometres per hour! – and the hydrogen within the gas is excited by particle collisions right at the shock front itself.


EAPOD Archive

Want to join us in our quest to show the beauty of the universe to the world? Share this EAPOD with your friends!

Regular publication has been ceased for an indefinite period.