McNeil's Nebula

Click on image for larger version.

Only recently discovered by amateur astronomer Julian W. McNeil II, this peculiar looking object is currently classified as a cometary-type reflection nebula. The newborn nebula was found while processing a wide field image of Orion's Messier 78 nebular region which was taken from McNeil's suburban backyard using a 3-inch refractor. Images taken of the area before September of 2003 show absolutely no signs of the nebula nor its ruddy illuminating star, which can be seen near the object's southern apex. Preliminary research by Bo Reipurth (Univ. of Hawaii) reveals that the nebula was created when the deeply imbedded fetal star previously catalogued as IRAS 05436-0007 somehow erupted and went into outburst. The young star's sudden increase in brightness consequently resulted in the surrounding cocoon of gas and dust becoming illuminated much like a lighthouse would light up a foggy harbor. To actually capture such an eruption of a pre-main sequence star so early in it's evolution is an extremely rare occurrence. Often regarded as FU Orionis or EX Lupii type events, these sudden outbursts represent a very illusive stage through which most stars are thought to pass as they make final adjustments with their surroundings before settling down and becoming stable objects much like our very own Sun.
-Jay McNeil

Click on the top image for a larger picture. The bottom image shows the true color (raw RGB data) of the star and the gas it is illuminating.


20in RC Optical Systems telescope operating at f/8.4
Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount
SBIG ST10XME CCD camera with color filter wheel

L R G B color production was used to create this image.

Luminance = 90 minutes binned 1x1
Red = 15 minutes binned 2x2
Green = 15 minutes binned 2x2
Blue = 15 minutes binned 2x2

Minimum credit line: Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

RETURN to the Diffuse Nebulae page.

BACK to main Best of AOP page.

Updated: 02/12/2004