Star Death Site

This is the graveyard of where a star died at the dawn of civilization.

The Veil Nebula, made of several fragments, is the remains of a star that exploded as a supernova some 5000 to 8000 years ago. With a telescope you can see this deep sky wonder high overhead these nights, in Cygnus the swan. A decent sized telescope, say 15 to 25cm diameter, can show a lot of the detail recorded here, but only in black-and-white. It takes a photo to pick up the magentas, from glowing hydrogen, and cyans, from oxygen being excited into shining by the shockwave created as the expanding cloud ploughs into the surrounding interstellar gas.

The whole complex is called the Veil Nebula but the segment at right passing through the star 52 Cygni is called the Witch’s Broom Nebula.

I shot this from home a couple of nights ago during a continuing run of typically fine fall weather, which usually brings the best nights of the year for astronomy. For this shot I used a new Lunt 80mm apochromatic refractor on loan for testing. It works very well! This is a stack of five 15-minute exposures.

– Alan, September 22, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

5 Replies to “Star Death Site”

  1. There’s a region of reddish dust on the west side of the Veil that obscures the stars behind it. It has quite a sharp border and it coincides with the edge of the Veil. But I have no idea if that is coincidence or not, as the dust cloud extends over a much wider area than the Veil — I see the sharp edge in wider shots extending much farther north well away from the Veil. I have not done a literature search to see if any work has been done on the interaction between the Veil and the dust cloud. I’m sure someone knows the answer!

  2. Hi Alan,
    Very nice wide-field image of the Veil! Although the effect is subtle, note that the concentration of stars seems greater between the two main loops than outside of them. Possibly that is because the explosion has swept obscuring dust out of the central region revealing more background stars. Have you encountered that explanation before?

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