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The Subtle Beauty of the California Nebula

By on Mar 30, 2016 in Nebula | 0 comments

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Between 1,000 to 1,500 light years away from the planet Earth, lays a gorgeous nebula called the California Nebula or NGC 1499. This nebula is actually one of the more challenging ones to observe through binoculars and even a low powered telescope. This is due to the low surface brightness. However, the reason why it has such low surface brightness might impress you. First, let’s get a good look at this lovely beast.

 

The impressive mystery of what lights up the entire California Nebula

California Nebula - NGC 1499

Credit: Bob Franke – Focal Pointe Observatory

Going back to our question on why the surface brightness is dim (if you had try to look at it from Earth with low powered equipment), the answer is actually right above the nebula itself! It’s the star right above called Xi Persei. This star is 30 times bigger than our own Sun! Not only that but is pumping out light at a blistering 250,000 times the rate of the Sun. Quite astonishing! If your brain wasn’t impressed just yet then imagine the size of this nebula. It’s about 40 light years long or 400,000 trillion kilometers long! Now go back to Xi Persei. That is just one star lighting up that entire nebula!

 

California Nebula and Pleiades star cluster

Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo

Take a few steps back (okay maybe more than that!) we have a beautiful mosaic of the California Nebula on the left. Looking towards the right we have the infamous “Seven Sisters” or Pleiades star cluster. The distance between both these famous objects are hundreds of light years. It’s amazing what we can capture with our cameras as this was taken by an astrophotographer and not NASA. It’s another reason why I love astronomy so much. Almost anyone can get into it and the community is driven to spend time and effort creating beautiful photos like the one above.

Here are a few more of the first image in a few other bands for your enjoyment.

California Nebula NGC 1499

Credit: Bob Franke – Focal Pointe Observatory

The California Nebula taken in hydrogen filter or highlighting hydrogen gas in the photo.

California Nebula - NGC 1499 - Oxygen filter

Credit: Bob Franke – Focal Pointe Observatory

The same photo taken by Bob Franke but highlighting oxygen (blue) and sulfur (red / orange).

 

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Summary
The Subtle Beauty of the California Nebula
Article Name
The Subtle Beauty of the California Nebula
Description
Taking a look at the gorgeous California Nebula as it takes us away to some true California dreamin'.
Author
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Zain is a well travelled astronomy blogger and has been writing since 2013. He has a passion for science education and has been accepted into NASA social program for MAVEN launch. When he's not being a space cadet he's rock climbing outdoors with friends.

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