'Pac-Man' Nebula Gobbles Up Space in Stunning Photo

Pacman Nebula by Steve Coates
NGC 281, also referred to as the “Pacman” nebula, is an emission nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia about 9,500 light years from Earth. Astrophotographer Steve Coates of Ocala, Fla., sent SPACE.com this image on Jan. 20, 2014. (Image credit: Steve Coates | www.CoatesAstrophotography.com)

With its mouth open wide and teeth bared, the insatiable-looking "Pac-Man" Nebula appears to be gobbling up deep space in this cool night sky photo.

Astrophotographer Steve Coates of Ocala, Fla., sent SPACE.com the stunning image on Jan. 20. He used an Astro-Tech 8 inch Ritchey-Chretien telescope, QSI 683wsg-8 camera, and Losmandy G11 with Gemini II mount to capture the image (Ha data 3 hours, SII and OIII data two hours and 20 minutes each filter). The Pac-Man shape of the nebula is orientated upside down in this view.

Also known as NGC 281, the Pac-Man Nebula is an emission nebula in the constellation Cassiopeia about 9,500 light-years from Earth. One light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). [Photos: Strange Nebula Shapes, What Do You See?]

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Young star cluster IC 1590, as well as several dense, dark clouds of cosmic dust called bok globules, call the Pac-Man Nebula home.

To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by SPACE.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.

Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo or video you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

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Contributing Writer and Producer

Nina Sen is a freelance writer and producer who covered night sky photography and astronomy for Space.com. She began writing and producing content for Space.com in 2011 with a focus on story and image production, as well as amazing space photos captured by NASA telescopes and other missions. Her work also includes coverage of amazing images by astrophotographers that showcase the night sky's beauty.