Nebulae - Glittering Lights - Marco Lorenzi
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The Smile Nebula (NGC 3199)

The Smile Nebula (NGC 3199)

NGC 3199 lies about 12,000 light-years away, a glowing cosmic cloud in the southern constellation of Carina. The nebula is about 75 light-years across in this haunting, false-color view. Though the deep image reveals a more or less complete ring shape, it does look very lopsided with a much brighter edge at the lower right. Near the center of the ring is a Wolf-Rayet star, a massive, hot, short-lived star that generates an intense stellar wind. In fact, Wolf-Rayet stars are known to create nebulae with interesting shapes as their powerful winds sweep up surrounding interstellar material. In this case, the bright edge was thought to indicate a bow shock produced as the star plowed through a uniform medium, like a boat through water. But measurements have shown the star is not really moving directly toward the bright edge. So a more likely explanation is that the material surrounding the star is not uniform, but clumped and denser near the bright edge of windblown NGC 3199 (text adapted from APOD).

Apo TEC140 (140/f7.2) - FLI Proline 16803 - Ha (165m) OIII (210m) R (60m) G (50m) B (50m) - Warrumbungle Observatory, Coonabarabran, NSW, Australia