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.

2006 February 2
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Thor's Helmet in H-Alpha
Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman

Explanation: Near picture center, the helmet-shaped structure with wing-like appendages is popularly called Thor's Helmet. Cataloged as NGC 2359, the striking nebula is located about 15,000 light-years away in the constellation Canis Major. The helmet is actually more like a cosmic bubble, blown as the wind from the bright, massive star near the bubble's center sweeps through the surrounding molecular cloud. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star, the energetic star is a blue giant thought to be in a brief, pre-supernova stage of evolution. The remarkable color composite combines broad and narrow band images - including a deep exposure recorded with an H-alpha filter. The H-alpha image traces the light from the region's glowing atomic hydrogen gas. Heroically sized even for a Norse god, this Thor's Helmet is about 30 light-years across.

Tomorrow's picture: Cosmic Tornado

< | Archive | Index | Search | Calendar | Glossary | Education | About APOD | Discuss | >

Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Web Site Statements, Warnings, and Disclaimers
NASA Official: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: EUD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.