An image of the Veil Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. This section is only 2 light years across- a small section of the whole nebula. IC: nasa.gov

Location and features:

The Veil Nebula, located about 1800-5100 light-years (a recent paper estimates 2400) in the constellation Cygnus (the swan), is a cloud of ionized gas and dust. The nebula is a collection of arc-shaped nebulas that form a small section of a much bigger nebula called the “Cygnus Loop”. The Veil Nebula is the only section of the Cygnus Loop that emits the visible spectrum of light- the other parts are visible in X-ray, Radio, and Infrared spectrums.

This image shows the Cygnus Loop (in Ultraviolet). The western Veil, the Eastern Veil, and the Pickering’s triangle are the 3 major components that make up the Veil Nebula. IC: Wikipedia

The star that went supernova to form this beauty is estimated to have been 20 times more massive than the Sun (20 solar masses) and is estimated to have exploded between 8000-20000 years ago. At the time of the explosion, it would have one of the brightest objects in the night sky (outshining even the planet Venus). The remnants have spread out since that day and cover a 3-degree area of the Earth’s night sky that is equivalent to 36 full Moons! An analysis of the light from the nebula reveals that it is mainly made up of hydrogen (depicted in red in the first image), sulphur (green), and oxygen (blue).

Discovery:

The nebula was discovered by astronomer William Herschel on 5th September 1784.

Sources:

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