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.

December 16, 1996
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Nebula Nova Cygni Turns On
Credit: P. Garnavich (CfA), 1.2-m Telescope, Whipple Observatory

Explanation: Old photographs show no evidence of the above nebula. In 1992, a white dwarf star in Cygnus blew off its outer layers in a classical nova explosion: an event called Nova Cygni 1992. Light flooded the local interstellar neighborhood, illuminated this existing gas cloud, excited the existing hydrogen, and hence caused the red emission. The only gas actually expelled by the nova can be seen as a small red ball just above the photograph's center. Eventually, light from the nova shell will fade, and this nebula will again become invisible!

Tomorrow's picture: Mariner's Mercury

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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