The Beautiful Rosette Nebula Is Your Valentine's Gift From the Universe
Were you hoping for some mysterious stranger to announce their affection for you, perhaps by leaving a single, perfect rose on your doorstep?
Well, good news: This week, the universe itself has sent humanity a rose, perfectly coinciding with the arrival of one of Earth's most cherished holidays (which is to say, Cheap Chocolate Day).
Earlier this week, astrophotographer John Chumack managed to take a truly breathtaking picture of an open star cluster that is officially named NGC 2244.
This name is its boring, clinical identification, as this group of stars is better known as the center of the Rosette Nebula. This very romantic name was given to the nebula because it's shaped like a giant, beautiful rose, with swirls of gas and stars spiraling outwards like petals on a flower.
Picture of the Star Cluster NGC 2244 and the surrounding Rosette Nebula Telescope: 800mm F4 GSO Newton Imager: Modified Canon EOS 550D (IR Block removed)3 RGB Frames stacked with 800 secs each Postprocessing with PixInsight 12 November 2012 Andreas Fink— Κώστας Δεληδημητρίου (@KostasDelid) January 9, 2018
Rosette Nebula pic.twitter.com/tpv9psyB2T
The Rosette Nebula is located around five thousand light-years away, in the Monoceros (Unicorn) constellation. The group of lights at its center contains several O-Type stars, which are notable for their blue light. Stars of this classification are among the brightest and hottest in the universe, making the Rosette Nebula all the more beautiful and impressive to behold. These stars don't have a particularly long lifespan, as they burn with all their might for only a short period of time. This naturally makes the current, radiant state of the Rosette Nebula all the more precious and enjoyable.
By stark contrast, the black squiggles that can be seen to one side of the rose pattern are called Bok globules and are among the coolest spots of gas in the universe. They're made of thick dust that blocks out all light and heat, leaving them cold and impenetrable, kind of like that ex-partner you're trying not to think about today.
This is but one of the many fantastic sights that can be spotted in the night's sky. What's particularly fun is that Chumack was able to take this picture in his own backyard observatory, admittedly with some fairly specialist equipment, but without needing to rely on, say, the Hubble Telescope to get his image.
This is just a nice reminder that it doesn't matter who you are, the universe is eager to share its most beautiful sights with you if you're just willing to look. You're never alone when the stars are shining.