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Astronomers zoom into Pencil Nebula, 4,800 trillion miles away

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 01:09

Sept. 12 - The European Southern Observatory in northern Chile has released new images of a massive glowing cloud of gas called The Pencil Nebula, 800 light years from Earth. The images show pink, white and blue filaments streaking across the sky, the result of a stellar explosion 11,000 years ago. Rob Muir reports.

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The Pencil Nebula, also known to astronomers as NGC 2736, was first discovered in 1835 residing in the southern constellation of Vela. Located approximately 800 light years from Earth, the glowing cloud of gas is debris left by a supernova explosion about 11,000 years ago, according to astronomers. While it appears from Earth to float motionless in space, the nebula, about 7 trillion kilometres across, is streaking througn space at about 650, 000 kilometres per hour. These latest images are amongst the clearest ever taken. The nebula's different colours allow astronomers to map the temperature of the gas. The hottest regions, dominated by ionised oxygen, glow blue while the cooler parts are red, indicating an ongoing emission of hydrogen. Together they form a highlight in the night sky 11,000 years after Pencil Nebula was formed.

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Astronomers zoom into Pencil Nebula, 4,800 trillion miles away

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 01:09