Astronomy Picture of the Day

NGC 7023: The Iris Nebula

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NGC 7023: The Iris Nebula


Like delicate cosmic petals, these clouds of interstellar
dust and gas have blossomed 1,300 light-years away in the fertile
star fields of the constellation Cepheus.

Sometimes called the Iris Nebula and dutifully
cataloged as NGC
7023, this is not the only nebula in the
sky to evoke the imagery of flowers.

Still, the
digital image
shows off the Iris Nebula's range of colors and
symmetries in impressive detail.

Within the Iris, dusty nebular material surrounds a massive, hot,
young star in its formative years.

Central filaments of cosmic dust glow with a reddish photoluminesence
as some dust grains
the star's invisible
radiation to visible red light.

Yet the dominant color of the nebula is blue,
of dust
grains reflecting starlight.

Dark, obscuring clouds of dust and cold molecular gas are also
present and can lead the eye to see other
convoluted and
fantastic shapes.

Infrared observations
indicate that this nebula may contain
complex carbon molecules known as

As shown here, the
is about 6 light-years across.

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