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.

2002 August 29
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The Pelican in the Swan
Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Explanation: The Pelican Nebula, also known as IC 5070, lies about 2,000 light-years away in the high and far-off constellation of Cygnus, the Swan. This picture spans a portion of the magnificent nebula about 30 light-years wide. Fittingly, this cosmic pelican is found just off the east "coast" of the North America Nebula, another surprisingly familiar looking emission nebula in Cygnus. In fact, the Pelican and North America nebulae are part of the same large star forming region. The two glowing nebulae appear separated from our vantage point by a large obscuring dust cloud running across the upper left corner in this gorgeous color view. Within the Pelican Nebula, dark dust clouds also help define the eye and long bill, while a bright front of ionized gas suggests the curved shape of the head and neck. Even though it is almost as close as the Orion Nebula, the stellar nursery marked by the Pelican and North America nebulae has proven complex and difficult to study.

Tomorrow's picture: H-alpha

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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