Orange supergiant star, Xi Cygni, beams through the red haze of the North American Nebula's "west coast," in this stunning night sky photo recently sent in to Space.com.
Amateur astronomer Jeff Johnson captured this image on Dec. 23 from his backyard in Las Cruces, N.M. The star Xi Cygni, also known as 62 Cygni or ξ Cyg, glows orange toward the center of the photo with the gas and dust of the North American Nebula in the background.
The North America Nebula is an emission nebula 100 light-years in diameter located in the constellation Cygnus — roughly 1,800 light-years away. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). The nebula, also known as NGC 7000, takes its name from a supposed resemblance to the continent. [Strange Nebula Shapes: What Do You See? (Photos)]
Johnson used a Takahashi FS-60C @ f/6.2 telescope, QSI 540wsg @ -15C camera, Takahashi EM200 Temma II mount, Astrodon Ha (3nm), Astrodon Tru-Balance I-Series LRGB Gen 2 filters, and SX Lodestar guider (settings: 4x15m Ha; 2x5m ea RGB (all bin1x1); AstroArt5, CS4 (cropped, 10xdarks/flats/fdarks/bias) to capture the photo.
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 you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at email@example.com.
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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.