Sky Factory's stellar foreground

Bad Astronomy
By Phil Plait
Nov 18, 2008 8:52 PMNov 5, 2019 12:26 AM


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I have managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder, so writing is really hard today. Until I can make my left arm move normally, I will simply leave you with this incredible image of Gamma Cygni, a bright star in the summer constellation of Cygnus.

The image is by Davide De Martin of Sky Factory. He takes archived professional astronomical images and makes these gorgeous mosaics of them (go to the link, his image is zoomable!). In this picture, the star appears to be surrounded by warm, glowing gas. I looked up what type of star Gamma Cygni is, and was surprised to find out it's an F star. That makes it hotter than the Sun, but not nearly hot enough to make this kind of gas glow! I was relieved to see that the star is actually coincidentally in the foreground. It's less than 1000 light years away, but the gas cloud is 3-6 times more distant. It's being lit up by hotter stars inside it. You should really spend some time looking at the other images David has done. They're stunningly beautiful, and a fine way to appreciate the majesty of the heavens.

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