NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 9 April 2023: 3000 light years away, a mysterious Nebula

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day for 9th April has featured the image of a mysterious Egg Nebula.

| Updated on: Apr 09 2023, 13:04 IST
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Olympus Mons volcano
1/5 Olympus Mons on Mars (April 3) – NASA shared Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system which is located on Mars. How tall is it? NASA says that it has an elevation of about 25kms above the surrounding plains, stretching almost 600kms across. This image was captured by the Mars Express mission.  ( ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin/Mars Express/Andrea Luck)
Rubin's Galaxy
2/5 Rubin's Galaxy (April 5) – Captured by the Hubble Telescope, NASA featured Rubin's Galaxy (UGC 2885), which is located around 232 million light-years away in the northern constellation Perseus. Also, it spans around 800000 light-years across. (NASA/ESA/Hubble Telescope/B. Holwerda)
Terran 1
3/5 World's first 3D-printed rocket (April 6) – It is Terran 1. Built by Relativity Space, Terran 1 can carry payloads up to 1250kg to about 185kms of Low-Earth orbit. (NASA/John Kraus/Relativity Space)
Supergiant star Rigel
4/5 Rigel - the brightest star of Constellation Orion (April 7) – Rigel is a blue-white shining star and is among the top 10 brightest stars visible from Earth. This supergiant star is believed to be approximately 8 million years old and is significantly larger and more massive than the Sun.  (NASA/Rheinhold Wittich)
Spiral Galaxy
5/5 Giant 100-bn star Spiral Galaxy (April 8) – It is Messier 100 (M100), a grand spiral galaxy of over 100 billion stars with well-defined spiral arms that is similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. It is 56 million light-years distant towards the constellation of Berenice's Hair (Coma Berenices). ( NASA, ESA, Hubble)
Egg Nebula
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The image of the Egg Nebula has been captured by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. ( Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA), W. Sparks (STScI) & R. Sahai (JPL), NASA)

A nebula is a massive cloud composed mainly of hydrogen and helium gas along with dust. Nebulae can originate from the debris ejected by a dying star, like a supernova, or from areas where new stars are taking shape, earning the name "star nurseries." While the dust and gases in a nebula are widely dispersed, gravity can still cause them to come together to form larger clumps. As these clumps increase in size, their gravitational force also becomes more potent.

There are several types of nebulae. However, on a wider range, there are five types of nebulae -- Emission Nebula, Reflection Nebula, Dark Nebula, Planetary Nebula, and Supernova Remnant. One of these pre-Planetary Nebula, featured as the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day, is the mysterious Egg Nebula. Yes, you read that right!

NASA said while sharing the photo, "Where is the centre of the Egg Nebula? Emerging from a cosmic egg, the star in the center of the Egg Nebula is casting away shells of gas and dust as it slowly transforms into a white dwarf star."

Situated in the northern constellation of Cygnus and positioned approximately 3000 light-years away from Earth, the Egg Nebula is a rapidly developing pre-planetary nebula spanning over one light year, NASA explained. In the image, the nebula's central star is obstructed from view by a dense layer of dust, while the outer dust shells reflect the star's light. This process results in a polarization effect, where it seems like the light is vibrating in the plane, central star, and the dust grains are preferentially reflected. By analyzing the orientation of the polarised light from the Egg Nebula, astronomers can gather information about the location of the hidden source at its center.

Tech behind images of Nebulas

To capture images of distant nebulae, astronomers rely on highly advanced telescopes. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope are examples of space telescopes that have successfully captured numerous pictures of faraway nebulae. In 2002, the Advanced Camera for Surveys on board the Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of the Egg Nebula, which was then rendered in artificial "Easter-Egg" colours to emphasize the polarization orientation.

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First Published Date: 09 Apr, 13:04 IST