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.

2007 January 4
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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Central Cygnus
Credit & Copyright: Processing - Noel Carboni, Imaging - Greg Parker

Explanation: Supergiant star Gamma Cygni lies at the center of the Northern Cross, famous asterism in the constellation Cygnus the Swan. Known by the proper name Sadr, the bright star also lies at the center of this gorgeous skyscape, featuring a complex of stars, dust clouds, and glowing nebulae along the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. The field of view spans over 3 degrees (six Full Moons) on the sky and includes emission nebula IC 1318 and open star cluster NGC 6910. Left of Gamma Cyg and shaped like two glowing cosmic wings divided by a long dark dust lane, IC 1318's popular name is understandably the Butterfly Nebula. Above and left of Gamma Cyg, are the young, still tightly grouped stars of NGC 6910. Some distance estimates for Gamma Cyg place it at around 1,800 light-years while estimates for IC 1318 and NGC 6910 range from 2,000 to 5,000 light-years.

Tomorrow's picture: Comet McNaught

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