Scientists Discover an Eerie Nebula in the Constellation of Cassiopeia

Scientists Discover an Eerie Nebula in the Constellation of Cassiopeia

Gamma Cassiopeiae is slowly eroding away the ghostly cloud of gas and dust in the W-shaped constellation.

The constellation of Cassiopeia is named after the vain queen of Greek mythology and can be observed in the northern sky. The characteristic ‘W’ shape (caused by five bright stars) of the constellation makes it even more visible to the viewers. The visibility of Cassiopeia varies from one place to another but it can be seen from all parts of the globe. It is clearly visible year-round in all the regions that lie above latitude 34o N. It can be seen at its clearest from September to early November in all the sub-tropical locations. Similarly, it can also be observed in the north of the low southern latitudes (below 25o S).

Cassiopeia hosts some of the most luminous stars known to humanity like the white hypergiant (6 Cassiopeiae) and yellow hypergiants (V509 Cassiopeiae and Rho Cassiopeiae). It covers a very rich section of the Milky Way with lots of young galactic disc stars, open clusters, and nebulae. Alpha Cassiopeiae, also known as Schedar, stays the brightest star of the constellation for most parts of the year. Having said that, it is sometimes shaded by Gamma Cassiopeiae whose brightness rises to a magnitude of 1.6.

Talking about Gamma Cassiopeiae, it is the central point of the ‘W’ of the constellation. It is 19 times more massive and 65,000 times brighter than our Sun. This blue-white subgiant is surrounded by a gaseous disc, which is formed due to the fast rotation of the star. According to an estimate, it rotates at an amazing speed of 1.6 million kilometers per hour. Consequently, massive eruptions of mass take place from this star which gives birth to the surrounding disk. This also accounts for the variations in the observed brightness of the Gamma Cassiopeiae.

The radiations emitting from Gamma Cassiopeiae are so strong that they even affect the Ghost of Cassiopeia (IC 63), a nebula which is several light-years away from the star. The Hubble Space Telescope captured an intriguing image of the nebula which clearly shows the impact of the strong radiation from the star. The ultraviolet radiation from Gamma Cassiopeiae smashes into the Hydrogen molecules which leads to the excitation of their electrons as they gain energy from the powerful rays.

This energy is later released in form of Hydrogen-alpha radiations. These emissions make IC 63 an emission nebula and these radiations give off the red light. Contrary to that, the light that gets reflected by the dust particles of the nebula is blue in color and gives the ghost of Cassiopeia, the status of a reflection nebula. The recent study of the researchers showed that the ultraviolet radiations from the central star of the Cassiopeia are destroying this ghostly nebula. Having said that, IC 63 is not the only object which is being affected by the humungous star as it engulfs a much larger region. The approximation of the scientists suggests that it covers about 2 degrees on the sky. You can have a look at the most detailed image of the colorful ghost by visiting the following link:

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