Spooooky Ghossst Nebbbuuuula….

It’s Halloween! Granted, it’s been a little hard to contemplate this awesome holiday what with all of the hurricanes and all, but now we can turn our attention on to more Halloween-y things like this:

vdB 141, the “Ghost Nebula” Image credit: T.A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF Click for super-spooky full-resolution version

This is an image of a portion of vdB 141, also known as the Ghost Nebula, and it really does look like a ghost! You’ll want to click the image or better yet, get the suuuppper spoooky full-resolution version (warning, it’s all spooky and ghosty and stuff).

vdB 141 is an example of a reflection nebula . Unlike an emission nebula, the stars within aren’t hot enough to ionize the gas cloud, so the cloud itself doesn’t glow, but rather scatters and reflects the starlight. This is the exact same phenomenon that gives us blue skies and red sunsets here on earth.

The image was captured in 2009 using the Mosaic Camera on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory outside of Tucson, Arizona. The nebula is located in the constellation of Cepheus.

As an added bonus, here’s another well-known reflection nebula – the Witch’s Head Nebula near Rigel in the constellation of Orion:

Witch Head nebula. Image Credit: NASA

Happy Halloween, everybody!