The Hubble Space Telescope operated by NASA and ESA (the European Space Agency) still has a lot to offer, although it’s approaching its retirement. The James Webb Space Telescope will take the place of Hubble in 2021’s Halloween, and it will be more focused on the formation of stars and planets, as well as taking a closer look at the earliest stars and galaxies.
The reflection nebula known as NGC 7023 now captures the attention of NASA and ESA operators who are in charge of the Hubble telescope. They caught the beautiful cosmic structure in a new photo, and you can see it below:
The NGC 7023 nebula was discovered in 1794 by the German-born British astronomer William Herschel, and it measures about 6 light-years across. The object is also known as the Iris Nebula, Caldwell 4 and LBN 487.
1,400 light-years away from Earth
The NGC 7023 nebula is located 1,400 light-years away from Earth in the Cepheus constellation. The Hubble astronomers explain why the nebula is different from the others:
While many of the nebulae visible in the night sky are emission nebulae (clouds of dust and gas that are hot enough to emit their own radiation and light), NGC 7023 is a reflection nebula,
This means that its color comes from the scattered light of its central star, designated SAO 19158, which lies nestled in the abundant star fields of the constellation Cepheus.
There’s a pretty simple explanation for why reflection nebulae glow. It happens because these cosmic structures are made up of small particles of solid matter, as they’re up to 10 or even 100 times smaller than dust particles on Earth. The particles can diffuse the light around them, providing the nebula a second-hand glow.
The nebula shines at magnitude +6.8, and it’s illuminated by a magnitude +7.4 star designated SAO 19158. The location is near the Mira-type variable star T Cephei.