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Astr110 Photography Projects, Fall 2007

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Foxfur Nebula, Kat Swanson

Fox Fur Nebula

This image consists of three important parts: a reflection nebula called the Fox Fur Nebula, an open cluster known as NGC 2264 and the Christmas Tree Cluster, and finally an extensive emission nebula. All parts are located in the Monoceros constellation. The objects in this image are about 2,700 light years away.

It is very common in the universe for stars to be born in groups. Sometimes enough stars have been formed around the same place that the group of them is called a star cluster. This is the case with NGC 2264, which has a linear size of approximately 47 light years across. It is specifically called an open cluster due to its number of stars and its diameter. The stars in open clusters are known to be well separated from one another.  This image displays only part of NGC 2264. The majority of this cluster appears to contain blue stars. These stars are blue due to their enormous size and high temperature.However, with a closer look, red stars can be seen in the background. It is probable that these stars are also blue, but the red, suspended dust blocks their blue light. The stars in the cluster are all fairly young, which is why they are still located very close to the nebula in which they were formed.

The Fox Fur Nebula is a reflection nebula, which is cloud of interstellar dust that is luminous. When the blue stars shine on the dust the blue light is reflected back. This can be found near the top middle of the image. The darker regions in the Fox Fur Nebula are where dust has collapsed and formed dust lanes. Dust that is in front of light sources only appears to be darker; these dark regions are actually composed of the same matter as its surrounding regions. This effect is created by dust that lies on the back side of stars.

The majority of the image consists of an extensive emission nebula, also known as HII regions. Emission nebulas are clouds of ionized gas that surround hot stars and emit light of various colors. This image specifically contains lots of hot, transparent gas, most of which is hydrogen. Due to high pressure the gas has been widely spread throughout the region. The linear size of this object is approximately 115 light years across. It is the widely suspended hydrogen gas that gives the image its reddish tint.

References:
Fix, John D. Astronomy: Journey to the Cosmic Frontier. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Fraknoi, Andrew, David Morrison, and Sidney Wolf. Voyages: Through the Universe. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, 2004.

Right Ascension (J2000) 06:40:29
Declination (J2000) +09:40:29
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 20x10 seconds in BVRC
Date observed

October 20, 2007 (BVRC)