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.

2009 December 24
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Gamma Cas and Friends
Credit & Copyright: Processing - Noel Carboni, Imaging - Greg Parker, New Forest Observatory

Explanation: Gamma Cassiopeiae shines high in northern autumn evening skies. The brightest spiky star in this rich and colorful Milky Way starfield, bluish Gamma Cas marks the central peak in the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia. A hot, variable, and rapidly rotating star about 600 light-years distant, Gamma Cas also ionizes surrounding interstellar material, including the wispy IC 63 (left) and IC 59 emission and reflection nebulae. The two faint nebulae are physically close to Gamma Cas, separated from the star by only a few light-years. This well-composed, wide-field view of the region spans almost 2 degrees on the sky.

Tomorrow's picture: Arc of the Milky Way

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