Image Credit & Copyright:
Image 1: Robert Gendler: http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/RosettemegamosaicNM.html
Image 2: Don Goldman & Chris Purves: http://www.astrodonimaging.com/gallery/display.cfm?imgID=273
Image 3: Rogelio Bernal Andreo: http://www.deepskycolors.com/archive/2009/12/01/widefield-Rosette-and-Cone-nebulas.html
Hey all, I’m trying a new format with these zoom posts. I’m making one large post that you can scroll to see all of the images in 1 post vs. creating 3 or more separate posts where you have to go back and forth and or hunt for the previous posts later. Please let me know what you think of this style. – Dan.
This is one of those regions you can say is, hiding in plain sight and it’s one of the most beautiful regions in the night sky and most people can’t even point to its general location in the sky. That’s through no fault of their own of course, because optically this region doesn’t put on much of a show. Whether you’re observing with binoculars or a telescope the most you can hope to see is the cluster of stars that drives the whole show. The nebula itself requires large aperture, dark skies and if you want to see it well; long exposure astrophotography.
It’s located about 5000 light years away in the northern constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn) which is just next to Orion and between the two dogs, Canis Minor and Major. It’s one of the most beautiful HII regions in the entire night sky so let’s break it down piece by piece.
The Rosette Nebula has a few different catalog names attached to it and that’s because of its different regions. NGC 2237 which identifies the entire structure lies on the outskirts of the Rosette Molecular Cloud (RMC). This region contains enough gas and dust to produce an estimated 100,000 stars similar to our Sun and it has no shortage of star formation going on within it. The star cluster at the center of this nebula is ionizing the surrounding area (The Rose area) rendering it aglow as it continues to expand. The material in the Rosette itself is dense enough to theoretically produce 10,000 Sun-like stars.
NGC 2244 or Caldwell 50 represents the open star cluster at the center of the rose. This cluster is roughly 3 million years old and 40 light years in diameter. It had previously been found to contain about 30-40 stars in the cluster but with observations made by NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope that number has grown to somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 stars. Let’s just take another look at the beauty and magnificent detail of this image. Could you imagine visiting one of those stars in this cluster, what a sight it must be. Also, look to the right at some of the dark nebulae strands. Can you see the “Sitting Dog” or the “Leaping Panther?” How about the “Donkey?” There’s also another one on the bottom right that’s just cut off called the “Elephant” as well.
NAME: Rosette Nebula, NGC 2237 (designating the entire region), NGC 2244 or Caldwell 50 (open star cluster).
WHAT IS IT?: Open star cluster surrounded by an ionized HII region.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 130 years in diameter for the main body of the nebula and about 1.5 degrees on the night sky which is 3 times the width of the full moon and the entire Rosette Molecular Cloud spans roughly 300 light years.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 4,500 to 5000 light years.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: Need very large aperture to view the nebula but the open star cluster is easily within binocular view at a magnitude of 5.
DISCOVERY: John Flamseed discovered the cluster in 1690 and John Herschel (Son of William Herschel)
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Monoceros (The Unicorn).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 06h 31m 52.00s | Dec +04° 55′ 57.00″.
Now that we’ve taken a close look at the Rosette Nebula, let’s take a walk backward and have a look at the Rosette’s general region and tell me what you can see now? That’s right; its next door neighbor is the Christmas tree and Cone nebulae/cluster. Here’s the Zoom post I did on that region back in December. https://danspace77.com/2014/12/24/cosmic-christmas-tree-zoom-1-3/ Sometimes when you see images of these amazing objects it’s also good to get a wide field look at things to get a feel for an objects surroundings. When seen from the perspective of Mr. Andreo’s image here it can often be eye opening. Keeping in mind that the Rosette nebula is about 3 full moon widths, this entire region, assuming we could see it in spectacular fashion like this, would stretch roughly the width of 12 full moons on the night sky. That to me is amazing when I look up and think about what’s there, right in front of me, but beyond my vision.