Bright red veins lace the sky and feed into enormous crimson clouds that look like living hearts, in this breathtaking view of the Gamma Cygni nebula and its surrounding region as seen by veteran astrophotographer Terry Hancock.
In the night sky, this nebula lies in the constellation Cygnus, and is named after the supergiant star at its center, Gamma Cygnus, also known as Sadr (pronounced like sadder). Hancock created a stunning video tour of the Gamma Cygni region with his latest images, which he shared with Space.com.
Hancock has imaged the Gamma Cygni region before, but his newest panoramic view is a cut above. The full mosaic consists of 187 frames and required more than 18 hours of observation time from his DownUnder Observatory to complete. You can see more of Hancock's latest Gamma Cygni views in this image gallery on Space.com.
The star Gamma Cygnus lies at the center of the Northern Cross, which is a smaller arrangement of stars in the constellation Cygnus. Hancock's image covers an area of approximately 6.5 x 5.4 degrees. The region includes multiple stars, dust clouds, dust lanes (the dark canyons between clouds) and nebulae (particularly rich clouds that may form stars), some of which are identified by Hancock in a series of annotated images in the Space.com gallery mentioned above.
Particularly vivid in the image is the Crescent Nebula, which lies about 5,000 light-years away from Earth. The nebula consists of material that once belonged to the Wolf-Rayet star, WR 136, which may explode into a supernova in the next million years. Stellar winds collided with the star while it was puffed up as a red giant, creating the outer shell of material.
Hancock's incredible night sky and astronomy images have been featured on Space.com many times before. You can see more of Terry Hancock's work on his Flickr page and at his website: http://www.downunderobservatory.com/.
To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by Space.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.
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