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Stars & Nebulae

Hercules Cluster

  • Object Type: Star Cluster
  • Distance: 25,000 light years
  • Constellation: Hercules

Hercules cluster, also called M13, is dense ball of hundreds of thousands of stars. M13 is one of over a hundred "globular clusters" that orbit the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Globular clusters are ancient, and their 12 billion year-old stars are among the oldest in the Universe. In your OWN image of M13, estimate the number of stars you can see.

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Orion Nebula

  • Object Type: Star forming region
  • Distance: 1500 light years
  • Constellation: Orion

The Orion nebula is an immense stellar nursery where clouds of dust and gas collapse under gravity to make the next generation of stars. It is also the closest star-forming region to us, and can be seen with the unaided eye in the constellation of Orion. In your OWN image of the Orion Nebula, look for the bright stars at the center of the nebula. It is the light from these newborn stars that make the nebula glow.

Explore more with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope

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Pleiades

  • Object Type: Star cluster
  • Distance: 440 light years
  • Constellation: Taurus

The Pleiades is a cluster of several thousand stars, but only the biggest and brightest 6 to 8 are visible to the unaided eye. All the stars were born out of the same cloud of gas and dust about 100 million years ago and will eventually drift apart. Galileo observed the cluster in 1610 and counted 40 stars. How many stars do you count in your OWN image?

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Ring Nebula

  • Object Type: Planetary nebula
  • Distance: 2300 light years
  • Constellation: Lyra

Called a planetary nebula because it looks like a planet through small telescopes, the Ring Nebula is actually the outer atmosphere of a dying star. When a star like the Sun runs out of nuclear fuel, the outer atmosphere is blown off into space, creating a planetary nebula and leaving behind an Earth-sized core we call a white dwarf star. How does your OWN image of the Ring Nebula compare to an image of a planet, say Venus?

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Milky Way

  • Object Type: Stars/nebulae/galaxy
  • Distance: Varies
  • Constellation: Sagittarius

Almost all the stars and nebulae you can see with the MicroObservatory telescopes are part of our own Milky Way galaxy. Our galaxy is a large disk-shaped spiral of around 300 billion stars, but here on Earth we view the disk from the inside, and so see a milky band of light across the sky. Galileo first resolved this cloudy band into "countless stars" when he turned his telescope skyward in 1612. If you take your OWN wide-field view of the Milky Way, look for huge clouds of gas and dust (nebulae) in addition to countless stars.

Find out more about the Milky Way with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope

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Sagittarius A

  • Object Type: Black hole/star cluster/galaxy
  • Distance: 26,000 light years
  • Constellation: Sagittarius

Look towards the constellation Sagittarius and you look towards the center of our galaxy. Beyond the impenetrable curtain of stars and dust lies Sagittarius A, a turbulent and dangerous place filled with X-ray hot gas and the remnants of exploded stars. Look closer, and you find Sagittarius A*, the giant black hole that resides at the very center of the Milky Way! The stars you see in your OWN image are just the brightest and closest of billions of stars lying between us and the very heart of our galaxy.

Explore more with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

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Dumbbell Nebula

  • Object Type: Planetary nebula
  • Distance: 1300 light years
  • Constellation: Vulpecula

An expanding shell of gas from a dying star that was similar to the Sun, the Dumbbell Nebula may offer a glimpse into the future of our own star. Although the Sun has five billion years of nuclear fuel left, the star that created the Dumbbell exhausted its fuel over 50,000 years ago. In its death throes, the star blew off its outer layers to form the beautiful ghostly nebula we see today. The nebula got its popular name because of a double lobe appearance. What shape do you see in your OWN image?

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Trifid Nebula

  • Object Type: Star forming region
  • Distance: 5400 light years
  • Constellation: Sagittarius

The Trifid Nebula is a stellar nursery, where young hot stars are illuminating the cocoon of gas surrounding them. The light reaching us comes directly from the hot gas, but also from starlight reflected from the dust of the cocoon. It was called the Trifid because in early observations it appeared to be broken into three bright regions by the dust lanes that cross the nebula. How many dust lanes can you see in your OWN image?

Explore more with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope

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Lagoon Nebula

  • Object Type: Star forming region
  • Distance: 4100 light years
  • Constellation: Sagittarius

Resembling a pool of light in the sky, the Lagoon Nebula is a giant cloud of hot hydrogen gas glowing from the intense light of newborn stars. The Lagoon Nebula, like other star-forming regions, can give us an insight into the environment that gave birth to our own Sun 5 billion years ago. What color does the Lagoon look in your OWN color image?

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Eagle Nebula

  • Object Type: Star forming region
  • Distance: 7000 light years
  • Constellation: Serpens

The Eagle Nebula is an immense star-forming region, where the intense radiation and winds from newborn stars are sweeping away the dust and gas that was left over from their formation. Because of these forces, the majestic dusty pillars that give the Eagle its name will evaporate over the next few million years. Compare the dark dust pillars in your OWN image with the famous Hubble "Pillars of Creation" image. Can you match the two?

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Crab Nebula

  • Object Type: supernova remnant
  • Distance: 6500 light years
  • Constellation: Taurus

The Crab Nebula is the twisted remains of a giant star that was seen to explode in the year 1054. As the outer parts of the stars exploded, the massive core of the star squeezed down to form a city-sized ball of neutrons called a pulsar. Spinning on its axis 30 times a second, the intense magnetic fields of the Crab pulsar power the expansion of the nebula. Can you see the crab-like pincers in your OWN image that gave the Crab Nebula its name?

Explore more with NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope

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Cygnus X-1

  • Object Type: black hole
  • Distance: 6000 light years
  • Constellation: Cygnus

The first confirmed discovery of a black hole, Cygnus X-1 is a binary system of a normal star and a massive but invisible companion. The black hole reveals its presence in two ways: its gravitational tug on the visible star, and a glow of X-rays as gas from the star is pulled into the black hole. Your OWN image will only reveal the visible companion star of the black hole. Can you tell which star it is?

Explore more with NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope

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Messier 46

  • Object Type: Star cluster
  • Distance: 5400 light years
  • Constellation: Puppis

The brightest stars in the open cluster M46 are 100 times more luminous than our Sun. In your OWN image of M46, can you spot the small disc of a planetary nebula near the cluster? M46 is a cluster of more than 500 young stars. So what is a planetary nebula, which is the remnant of an old dead star, doing there?

Find out more about M46 at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Messier 15

  • Object Type: Globular cluster
  • Distance: 34000 light years
  • Constellation: Pegasus

A ball of a million stars tightly bound by their mutual gravity, M15 is one of 158 globular clusters that orbit the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Globular clusters contain some of the oldest stars known in the universe, meaning that M15 has been around for most of the history of the universe! In your OWN image of M15, how many individual stars can you count?

Explore more with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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Beehive Cluster

  • Object Type: Star cluster
  • Distance: 577 light years
  • Constellation: Cancer

One of the largest and nearest "open clusters" in the Milky Way, the Beehive is a swarm of young stars that were born about 600 million years ago. Also called Praesepe, which is Latin for manger, the Beehive had been seen in the sky and recorded since ancient times, but before Galileo's observations, was always described as a little cloud or mist. Through Galileo's telescope the true nature of Praesepe was revealed. Galileo counted 36 stars in the Beehive cluster. How many can your count in your OWN image?

Find out more at NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day

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CQ Cepheus

  • Object Type: High mass star
  • Distance: 3000 light years
  • Constellation: Cepheus

CQ Ceph is a binary star system, where one member of the pair is a rare supermassive star called a Wolf-Rayet star. Wolf-Rayet stars are at the very end of their short luminous lifespan, and this star in CQ Ceph is destined to die at any moment in an immense supernova explosion. While the outer layers of the star will be blown into space, the dense massive core will collapse in on itself forming a black hole. The resulting black hole X-ray binary system will be very similar to Cygnus X-1.

Find out more about Wolf-Rayet stars with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

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