A nebula (Latin for "cloud" or "fog";pl. nebulae, nebulæ, or nebulas) is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases. Originally, the term was used to describe any diffuse astronomical object, including galaxies beyond the Milky Way. The Andromeda Galaxy, for instance, was once referred to as the Andromeda Nebula (and spiral galaxies in general as "spiral nebulae") before the true nature of galaxies was confirmed in the early 20th century by Vesto Slipher, Edwin Hubble and others.
Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets, and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.
An interstellar cloud is generally an accumulation of gas, plasma, and dust in our and other galaxies. Put differently, an interstellar cloud is a denser-than-average region of the interstellar medium, (ISM), the matter and radiation that exists in the space between the star systems in a galaxy. Depending on the density, size, and temperature of a given cloud, its hydrogen can be neutral, making an H I region; ionized, or plasma making it an H II region; or molecular, which are referred to simply as molecular clouds, or sometimetimes dense clouds. Neutral and ionized clouds are sometimes also called diffuse clouds. An interstellar cloud is formed by the gas and dust particles from a red giant in its later life.
Cosmic dust, also called extraterrestrial dust or space dust, is dust which exists in outer space, or has fallen on Earth. Most cosmic dust particles are between a few molecules to 0.1 µm in size. Cosmic dust can be further distinguished by its astronomical location: intergalactic dust, interstellar dust, interplanetary dust and circumplanetary dust.
Most nebulae are of vast size; some are hundreds of light years in diameter. A nebula that is barely visible to the human eye from Earth would appear larger, but no brighter, from close by.The Orion Nebula, the brightest nebula in the sky and occupying an area twice the diameter of the full Moon, can be viewed with the naked eye but was missed by early astronomers. Although denser than the space surrounding them, most nebulae are far less dense than any vacuum created on Earth – a nebular cloud the size of the Earth would have a total mass of only a few kilograms. Many nebulae are visible due to fluorescence caused by embedded hot stars, while others are so diffuse they can only be detected with long exposures and special filters. Some nebulae are variably illuminated by T Tauri variable stars. Nebulae are often star-forming regions, such as in the "Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula. In these regions the formations of gas, dust, and other materials "clump" together to form denser regions, which attract further matter, and eventually will become dense enough to form stars. The remaining material is then believed to form planets and other planetary system objects.
The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way, being south of Orion's Belt in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae, and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky. M42 is located at a distance of 1,344 ± 20 light years and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. The M42 nebula is estimated to be 24 light years across. It has a mass of about 2,000 times that of the Sun. Older texts frequently refer to the Orion Nebula as the Great Nebula in Orion or the Great Orion Nebula.
Vacuum is space devoid of matter. The word stems from the Latin adjective vacuus for "vacant" or "void". An approximation to such vacuum is a region with a gaseous pressure much less than atmospheric pressure. Physicists often discuss ideal test results that would occur in a perfect vacuum, which they sometimes simply call "vacuum" or free space, and use the term partial vacuum to refer to an actual imperfect vacuum as one might have in a laboratory or in space. In engineering and applied physics on the other hand, vacuum refers to any space in which the pressure is lower than atmospheric pressure. The Latin term in vacuo is used to describe an object that is surrounded by a vacuum.
Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth revolves around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.
Around 150 AD, Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy) recorded, in books VII–VIII of his Almagest , five stars that appeared nebulous. He also noted a region of nebulosity between the constellations Ursa Major and Leo that was not associated with any star.The first true nebula, as distinct from a star cluster, was mentioned by the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, in his Book of Fixed Stars (964). He noted "a little cloud" where the Andromeda Galaxy is located. He also cataloged the Omicron Velorum star cluster as a "nebulous star" and other nebulous objects, such as Brocchi's Cluster. The supernova that created the Crab Nebula, the SN 1054, was observed by Arabic and Chinese astronomers in 1054.
The Almagest is a 2nd-century Greek-language mathematical and astronomical treatise on the apparent motions of the stars and planetary paths, written by Claudius Ptolemy. One of the most influential scientific texts of all time, its geocentric model was accepted for more than 1200 years from its origin in Hellenistic Alexandria, in the medieval Byzantine and Islamic worlds, and in Western Europe through the Middle Ages and early Renaissance until Copernicus.
A constellation is a group of stars that forms an imaginary outline or pattern on the celestial sphere, typically representing an animal, mythological person or creature, a god, or an inanimate object.
Ursa Major is a constellation in the northern sky, whose associated mythology likely dates back into prehistory. Its Latin name means "greater she-bear", standing as a reference to and in direct contrast with nearby Ursa Minor, the lesser bear. In antiquity, it was one of the original 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy, and is now the third largest constellation of the 88 modern constellations.
In 1610, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc discovered the Orion Nebula using a telescope. This nebula was also observed by Johann Baptist Cysat in 1618. However, the first detailed study of the Orion Nebula was not performed until 1659, by Christiaan Huygens, who also believed he was the first person to discover this nebulosity.
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, often known simply as Peiresc, or by the Latin form of his name Peirescius, was a French astronomer, antiquary and savant, who maintained a wide correspondence with scientists, and was a successful organizer of scientific inquiry. His research included a determination of the difference in longitude of various locations in Europe, around the Mediterranean, and in North Africa.
Johann Baptist Cysat was a Swiss Jesuit mathematician and astronomer, after whom the lunar crater Cysatus is named. He was born in Lucerne, as the eighth of 14 children, to cartographer, historian and folklorist Renward Cysat (1545–1614).
Christiaan Huygens was a Dutch physicist, mathematician, astronomer and inventor, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest scientists of all time and a major figure in the scientific revolution. In physics, Huygens made groundbreaking contributions in optics and mechanics, while as an astronomer he is chiefly known for his studies of the rings of Saturn and the discovery of its moon Titan. As an inventor, he improved the design of the telescope with the invention of the Huygenian eyepiece. His most famous invention, however, was the invention of the pendulum clock in 1656, which was a breakthrough in timekeeping and became the most accurate timekeeper for almost 300 years. Because he was the first to use mathematical formulae to describe the laws of physics, Huygens has been called the first theoretical physicist and the founder of mathematical physics.
In 1715, Edmund Halley published a list of six nebulae.This number steadily increased during the century, with Jean-Philippe de Cheseaux compiling a list of 20 (including eight not previously known) in 1746. From 1751 to 1753, Nicolas Louis de Lacaille cataloged 42 nebulae from the Cape of Good Hope, most of which were previously unknown. Charles Messier then compiled a catalog of 103 "nebulae" (now called Messier objects, which included what are now known to be galaxies) by 1781; his interest was detecting comets, and these were objects that might be mistaken for them.
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
Charles Messier was a French astronomer most notable for publishing an astronomical catalogue consisting of 110 nebulae and star clusters, which came to be known as the Messier objects. The purpose of the catalogue was to help astronomical observers, in particular comet hunters like himself, distinguish between permanent and transient visually diffuse objects in the sky.
The Messier objects are a set of 110 astronomical objects cataloged by the French astronomer Charles Messier in his "Catalogue des Nébuleuses et des Amas d'Étoiles". Because Messier was interested in finding only comets, he created a list of non-comet objects that frustrated his hunt for them. The compilation of this list, in collaboration with his assistant Pierre Méchain, is known as the Messier catalogue. This catalogue of objects is one of the most famous lists of astronomical objects, and many Messier objects are still referenced by their Messier number. The catalogue includes some astronomical objects that can be observed from Earth's Northern Hemisphere such as deep-sky objects, a characteristic which makes the Messier objects extremely popular targets for amateur astronomers.
The number of nebulae was then greatly increased by the efforts of William Herschel and his sister Caroline Herschel. Their Catalogue of One Thousand New Nebulae and Clusters of Starswas published in 1786. A second catalog of a thousand was published in 1789 and the third and final catalog of 510 appeared in 1802. During much of their work, William Herschel believed that these nebulae were merely unresolved clusters of stars. In 1790, however, he discovered a star surrounded by nebulosity and concluded that this was a true nebulosity, rather than a more distant cluster.
Frederick William Herschel, was a German-born British astronomer, composer and brother of fellow astronomer Caroline Herschel, with whom he worked. Born in the Electorate of Hanover, Herschel followed his father into the Military Band of Hanover, before migrating to Great Britain in 1757 at the age of nineteen.
Caroline Lucretia Herschel was a German astronomer, whose most significant contributions to astronomy were the discoveries of several comets, including the periodic comet 35P/Herschel–Rigollet, which bears her name. She was the younger sister of astronomer William Herschel, with whom she worked throughout her career.
Beginning in 1864, William Huggins examined the spectra of about 70 nebulae. He found that roughly a third of them had the emission spectrum of a gas. The rest showed a continuous spectrum and thus were thought to consist of a mass of stars.A third category was added in 1912 when Vesto Slipher showed that the spectrum of the nebula that surrounded the star Merope matched the spectra of the Pleiades open cluster. Thus the nebula radiates by reflected star light.
About 1923, following the Great Debate, it had become clear that many "nebulae" were in fact galaxies far from our own.
Slipher and Edwin Hubble continued to collect the spectra from many different nebulae, finding 29 that showed emission spectra and 33 that had the continuous spectra of star light.In 1932, Hubble announced that nearly all nebula are associated with stars, and their illumination comes from star light. He also discovered that the emission spectrum nebulae are nearly always associated with stars having spectral classifications of B or hotter (including all O-type main sequence stars), while nebulae with continuous spectra appear with cooler stars. Both Hubble and Henry Norris Russell concluded that the nebulae surrounding the hotter stars are transfomed in some manner.
There are a variety of formation mechanisms for the different types of nebulae. Some nebulae form from gas that is already in the interstellar medium while others are produced by stars. Examples of the former case are giant molecular clouds, the coldest, densest phase of interstellar gas, which can form by the cooling and condensation of more diffuse gas. Examples of the latter case are planetary nebulae formed from material shed by a star in late stages of its stellar evolution.
Star-forming regions are a class of emission nebula associated with giant molecular clouds. These form as a molecular cloud collapses under its own weight, proceeding stars. Massive stars may form in the center, and their ultraviolet radiation ionizes the surrounding gas, making it visible at optical wavelengths. The region of ionized hydrogen surrounding the massive stars is known as an H II region while the shells of neutral hydrogen surrounding the H II region are known as photodissociation region. Examples of star-forming regions are the Orion Nebula, the Rosette Nebula and the Omega Nebula. Feedback from star-formation, in the form of supernova explosions of massive stars, stellar winds or ultraviolet radiation from massive stars, or outflows from low-mass stars may disrupt the cloud, destroying the nebula after several million years.
Other nebulae form as the result of supernova explosions; the death throes of massive, short-lived stars. The materials thrown off from the supernova explosion are then ionized by the energy and the compact object that its core produces. One of the best examples of this is the Crab Nebula, in Taurus. The supernova event was recorded in the year 1054 and is labeled SN 1054. The compact object that was created after the explosion lies in the center of the Crab Nebula and its core is now a neutron star.
Still other nebulae form as planetary nebulae. This is the final stage of a low-mass star's life, like Earth's Sun. Stars with a mass up to 8–10 solar masses evolve into red giants and slowly lose their outer layers during pulsations in their atmospheres. When a star has lost enough material, its temperature increases and the ultraviolet radiation it emits can ionize the surrounding nebula that it has thrown off. Our Sun will produce a planetary nebula and its core will remain behind in the form of white dwarf.
Objects named nebulae belong to 4 major groups. Before their nature was understood, galaxies ("spiral nebulae") and star clusters too distant to be resolved as stars were also classified as nebulae, but no longer are.
Not all cloud-like structures are named nebulae; Herbig–Haro objects are an example.
Most nebulae can be described as diffuse nebulae, which means that they are extended and contain no well-defined boundaries.Diffuse nebulae can be divided into emission nebula, reflection nebulae and "dark nebulae." Visible light nebulae may be divided into emission nebulae that emit spectral line radiation from excited or ionized gas (mostly ionized hydrogen); they are often called HII regions (the term "HII" refers to ionized hydrogen). Reflection nebulae are visible primarily due to the light they reflect. Reflection nebulae themselves do not emit significant amounts of visible light, but are near stars and reflect light from them. Similar nebulae not illuminated by stars do not exhibit visible radiation, but may be detected as opaque clouds blocking light from luminous objects behind them; they are called "dark nebulae".
Although these nebulae have different visibility at optical wavelengths, they are all bright sources of infrared emission, chiefly from dust within the nebulae.
Planetary nebulae are the remnants of the final stages of stellar evolution for lower-mass stars. Evolved asymptotic giant branch stars expel their outer layers outwards due to strong stellar winds, thus forming gaseous shells, while leaving behind the star's core in the form of a white dwarf. billion years after its formation.The hot white dwarf illuminates the expelled gases producing emission nebulae with spectra similar to those of emission nebulae found in star formation regions. Technically they are HII regions, because most hydrogen are ionized, but are denser and more compact than nebulae found in star formation regions. Planetary nebulae were given their name by the first astronomical observers who were initially unable to distinguish them from planets, and who tended to confuse them with planets, which were of more interest to them. Our Sun is expected to spawn a planetary nebula about 12
A protoplanetary nebula (PPN) is an astronomical object at the short-lived episode during a star's rapid stellar evolution between the late asymptotic giant branch (LAGB) phase and the following planetary nebula (PN) phase.During the AGB phase, the star undergoes mass loss, emitting a circumstellar shell of hydrogen gas. When this phase comes to an end, the star enters the PPN phase.
The PPN is energized by the central star, causing it to emit strong infrared radiation and become a reflection nebula. Collimated stellar winds from the central star shape and shock the shell into an axially symmetric form, while producing a fast moving molecular wind.The exact point when a PPN becomes a planetary nebula (PN) is defined by the temperature of the central star. The PPN phase continues until the central star reaches a temperature of 30,000 K, after which it is hot enough to ionize the surrounding gas.
A supernova occurs when a high-mass star reaches the end of its life. When nuclear fusion in the core of the star stops, the star collapses. The gas falling inward either rebounds or gets so strongly heated that it expands outwards from the core, thus causing the star to explode.The expanding shell of gas forms a supernova remnant, a special diffuse nebula. Although much of the optical and X-ray emission from supernova remnants originates from ionized gas, a great amount of the radio emission is a form of non-thermal emission called synchrotron emission. This emission originates from high-velocity electrons oscillating within magnetic fields.
A planetary nebula, abbreviated as PN or plural PNe, is a type of emission nebula consisting of an expanding, glowing shell of ionized gas ejected from red giant stars late in their lives.
The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, is a spiral galaxy approximately 780 kiloparsecs from Earth, and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. Its name stems from the area of the Earth's sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda.
The Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula in the northern constellation of Lyra. Such objects are formed when a shell of ionized gas is expelled into the surrounding interstellar medium by a red giant star, which was passing through the last stage in its evolution before becoming a white dwarf.
In astronomy, reflection nebulae are clouds of interstellar dust which might reflect the light of a nearby star or stars. The energy from the nearby stars is insufficient to ionize the gas of the nebula to create an emission nebula, but is enough to give sufficient scattering to make the dust visible. Thus, the frequency spectrum shown by reflection nebulae is similar to that of the illuminating stars. Among the microscopic particles responsible for the scattering are carbon compounds and compounds of other elements such as iron and nickel. The latter two are often aligned with the galactic magnetic field and cause the scattered light to be slightly polarized.
An emission nebula is a nebula formed of ionized gases that emit light of various wavelengths. The most common source of ionization is high-energy photons emitted from a nearby hot star. Among the several different types of emission nebulae are H II regions, in which star formation is taking place and young, massive stars are the source of the ionizing photons; and planetary nebulae, in which a dying star has thrown off its outer layers, with the exposed hot core then ionizing them.
The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 3 million light-years (ly) from Earth in the constellation Triangulum. It is catalogued as Messier 33 or NGC 598. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third-largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, behind the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. It is one of the most distant permanent objects that can be viewed with the naked eye.
An H II region or HII region is a region of interstellar atomic hydrogen that is ionized. It is typically a cloud of partially ionized gas in which star formation has recently taken place, with a size ranging from one to hundreds of light years, and density from a few to about a million particles per cubic cm. The Orion Nebula, now known to be an H II region, was observed in 1610 by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc by telescope, the first such object discovered.
Messier 87 is a supergiant elliptical galaxy in the constellation Virgo. One of the most massive galaxies in the local Universe, it is notable for its large population of globular clusters—about 12,000 compared to the 150–200 orbiting the Milky Way—and its jet of energetic plasma that originates at the core and extends at least 1,500 parsecs, traveling at relativistic speed. It is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky, and a popular target for both amateur and professional astronomers.
The Rosette Nebula is a large spherical H II region located near one end of a giant molecular cloud in the Monoceros region of the Milky Way Galaxy. The open cluster NGC 2244 is closely associated with the nebulosity, the stars of the cluster having been formed from the nebula's matter.
Wolf–Rayet stars, often abbreviated as WR stars, are a rare heterogeneous set of stars with unusual spectra showing prominent broad emission lines of highly ionised helium and nitrogen or carbon. The spectra indicate very high surface enhancement of heavy elements, depletion of hydrogen, and strong stellar winds. Their surface temperatures range from 30,000 K to around 200,000 K, hotter than almost all other stars.
The Trifid Nebula is an H II region located in Sagittarius. It was discovered by Charles Messier on June 5, 1764. Its name means 'divided into three lobes'. The object is an unusual combination of an open cluster of stars; an emission nebula, a reflection nebula and a dark nebula. Viewed through a small telescope, the Trifid Nebula is a bright and peculiar object, and is thus a perennial favorite of amateur astronomers.
Astronomical spectroscopy is the study of astronomy using the techniques of spectroscopy to measure the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, including visible light and radio, which radiates from stars and other celestial objects. A stellar spectrum can reveal many properties of stars, such as their chemical composition, temperature, density, mass, distance, luminosity, and relative motion using Doppler shift measurements. Spectroscopy is also used to study the physical properties of many other types of celestial objects such as planets, nebulae, galaxies, and active galactic nuclei.
The Tarantula Nebula is an H II region in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
The Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as Messier 51a, M51a, and NGC 5194, is an interacting grand-design spiral galaxy with a Seyfert 2 active galactic nucleus. It lies in the constellation Canes Venatici, and was the first galaxy to be classified as a spiral galaxy. Its distance is estimated to be between 15 and 35 million light-years.
The Sombrero Galaxy is a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo located 9.55 Mpc (31,100,000 ly) from Earth. The galaxy has a diameter of approximately 15kpc, 30% the size of the Milky Way. It has a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk. The dark dust lane and the bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero. Astronomers initially thought that the halo was small and light, indicative of a spiral galaxy, but the Spitzer Space Telescope found that the halo around the Sombrero Galaxy is larger and more massive than previously thought, indicative of a giant elliptical galaxy. The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of +8.0, making it easily visible with amateur telescopes, and it is considered by some authors to be the galaxy with the highest absolute magnitude within a radius of 10 megaparsecs of the Milky Way. Its large bulge, its central supermassive black hole, and its dust lane all attract the attention of professional astronomers.
The Lagoon Nebula is a giant interstellar cloud in the constellation Sagittarius. It is classified as an emission nebula and as an H II region.
Herbig–Haro (HH) objects are turbulent looking patches of nebulosity associated with newborn stars. They are formed when narrow jets of partially ionized gas ejected by said stars collide with nearby clouds of gas and dust at speeds of several hundred kilometres per second. Herbig–Haro objects are ubiquitous in star-forming regions, and several are often seen around a single star, aligned with its rotational axis. Most of them lie within about one parsec of the source, although some have been observed several parsecs away. HH objects are transient phenomena that last around a few tens of thousand years. They can change visibly over quite short timescales of a few years as they move rapidly away from their parent star into the gas clouds of interstellar space. Hubble Space Telescope observations have revealed the complex evolution of HH objects over the period of a few years, as parts of the nebula fade while others brighten as they collide with the clumpy material of the interstellar medium.
A protoplanetary nebula or preplanetary nebula (PPN) is an astronomical object which is at the short-lived episode during a star's rapid evolution between the late asymptotic giant branch (LAGB) phase and the subsequent planetary nebula (PN) phase. A PPN emits strongly in infrared radiation, and is a kind of reflection nebula. It is the second-from-the-last high-luminosity evolution phase in the life cycle of intermediate-mass stars.
NGC 602 is a young, bright open cluster of stars located in the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. It is embedded in a nebula known as N90.
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