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NGC 6960 Western Veil Nebula
Eric Kas

Western VEil Nebula

Captured in all of its magnitude is the star 52 Cygni. While 52 Cygni is central in the image, more importantly the western portion of the Veil Nebula is featured. The part of the nebula that is pictured can be found in the southern west part of the Veil Nebula. This part of the nebula is technically known as NGC 6960 but less formally as the Witch's Broom Nebula (Nemiroff NASA). One can tell why the Witch's Broom is a proper title after viewing the entire object known as NGC 6960 (viewable here). In a brief article by the ESA (European Space Agency) a nebula is explained as being caused by a supernova explosion. After a star explodes, it emits stellar debris coupled with material carried by the blast wave, which results in the glowing and beautiful colored gas. The portion of nebula NGC 6960 pictured above displays this colored gas (Christensen). In this same article, the ESA states, "Scientists estimate that the supernova explosion occurred some 5-10,000 years ago and could have been witnessed and recorded by ancient civilizations" (Christensen). In terms of the actual size of the supernova explosion, ESA reports that this explosion was nearly as bright as that of our crescent Moon! The age and origin of the Western Veil Nebula are particularly important because this "middle-aged supernova remnant is an ideal laboratory for studying the physics of supernova remnants: it is fairly nearby, has a large angular size and has a relatively small amount of foreground extinction" (Christensen).

 

NGC 6960 is a result of a type II supernova. This type of supernova results from two different criteria: (1) the star is massive; (2) The star collapsed on itself (Chaisson). The reason that such a massive star would collapse on itself is due to the variety of heavy elements within the star. The supernova remnant of the nebula NGC 6960 was a result of a star that used nuclear fusion to create heavy elements; as a supergiant star uses nuclear fusion it is able to fuse heavier and heavier elements together, eventually gaining a core that is quite heavy (Chaisson). Eventually the star rushes in on itself and a great explosion of heavy elements occurs. Thus, the portion of NGC 6960 that is pictured shows a variety of colored gases, these gases consist of different elements. The red gas pictured consists of hydrogen and the Green/Cyan color is that mostly of oxygen (Molnar). Thus, since the gases that are visible contain heavier gases such as oxygen, it is logical that the remnant is a result of a type II supernova which originated from a giant star with heavy gases such as oxygen. Another defect of the picture is that of the streak down the center of 52 Cygnus, this is an optical defect caused by the sheer magnitude of the star.

 

References:

Chaisson, Eric, and Steve McMillan. Astronomy: A Beginner's Guide to the Universe. 5thth ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. 334-35. Print

Christensen, Lars L. "Uncovering the Veil Nebula." Hubble. ESA, 31 July 2007. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic0712/>.

"Constellations: Cygnus -- Zeus on the Prowl, or a True Friend?." Hawaiian Astronomical Society, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://www.hawastsoc.org/deepsky/cyg/index.html#ngc6960>.

Molnar, Larry. "Super Nova Gases." Calvin College. Grand Rapids, MI. 22 Nov. 2011. Personal Discourse.

Nemiroff, Robert, and Jerry Bonnell. NGC 6960: The Witch's Broom Nebula . NASA, Feb. 2007. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070101.html>.

 

Right Ascension (J2000) 20:45:48
Declination (J2000) +30:42:21
Filters used B (Blue), R (Red), V (Green)
Exposure time per filter B, V, and R (60s x 5)
Date observed November 12, 2011

 

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