Image Credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh
Magnificent island universe NGC 2403 stands within the boundaries of the long-necked constellation Camelopardalis. Some 10 million light-years distant and about 50,000 light-years across, the spiral galaxy also seems to have more than its fair share of giant star forming HII regions, marked by the telltale reddish glow of atomic hydrogen gas. The giant HII regions are energized by clusters of hot, massive stars that explode as bright supernovae at the end of their short and furious lives. A member of the M81 group of galaxies, NGC 2403 closely resembles another galaxy with an abundance of star forming regions that lies within our own local galaxy group, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy. Spiky in appearance, bright stars in this colorful galaxy portrait of NGC 2403 lie in the foreground, within our own Milky Way.
Best seen from the Patagonian Clear Skyes!
The Red Spider Nebula (also catalogued as NGC 6537) is a planetary nebula located near the heart of the Milky Way, in the northwest of the constellation Sagittarius. The nebula has a prominent two-lobed shape, possibly due to a binary companion or magnetic fields and has an ‘S’-shaped symmetry of the lobes – the lobes opposite each other appear similar. This is believed to be due to the presence of a companion to the central white dwarf. However, the gas walls of the two lobed structures are not at all smooth, but rather are rippled in a complex way.
The central white dwarf, the remaining compact core of the original star, produces a powerful and hot (≈10,000 K) wind blowing with a speed of 300 kilometers per second, which has generated waves 100 billion kilometres high. The waves are generated by supersonic shocks formed when the local gas is compressed and heated in front of the rapidly expanding lobes. Atoms caught in the shocks radiate a visible light. These winds are what give this nebula its unique 'spider' shape and also contribute to the expansion of the nebula.
The star at the center of the Red Spider Nebula is surrounded by a dust shell making its exact properties hard to determine. Its surface temperature is probably 150,000-250,000 K although a temperature of 340,000 K or even 500,000 K is not ruled out, making it among the hottest white dwarf stars known.
The Red Spider Nebula lies toward the constellation of Sagittarius. Its distance has been variously estimated as 1900 light years or, more likely, 3000-8000 light-years.
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