Best of AOP - Diffuse Nebulae

McNeilʼs Nebula

Only recently discovered by amateur astronomer Julian W. McNeil II, this peculiar looking object is currently classified as a cometary-type reflection nebula. The newborn nebula was found while processing a wide field image of the M78 region which was taken from McNeil's suburban backyard using a 3-inch refractor. Images taken of the area before September of 2003 show absolutely no signs of the nebula nor its ruddy illuminating star, which can be seen near the object's southern apex. Preliminary research by Bo Reipurth (Univ. of Hawaii) reveals that the nebula was created when the deeply imbedded fetal star previously catalogued as IRAS 05436-0007 erupted and went into outburst. The young star's sudden increase in brightness consequently resulted in the surrounding cocoon of gas and dust becoming illuminated, much like a lighthouse would light up a foggy harbor. To actually capture such an eruption of a pre-main sequence star so early in it's evolution is an extremely rare occurrence. Often regarded as FU Orionis or EX Lupii type events, these sudden outbursts represent a very illusive stage through which most stars are thought to pass as they make final adjustments with their surroundings before settling down and becoming stable objects much like our very own Sun. 
-Jay McNeil

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Last Updated: 09-Jun-2014

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About This Image

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Equipment

20in RC Optical Systems telescope Operating at f/8.1

Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount

SBIG ST10XME CCD camera with color filter wheel

LRGB color production was used to create this image.

Luminance = 90 minutes binned 1x1

Red = 15 minutes binned 2x2

Green = 15 minutes binned 2x2

Blue = 15 minutes binned 2x2

Minimum credit line: Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF