An Image of What Was

Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

A short thought that I wrote about five or so years ago when I bought my 8” Celestron telescope and aimed it at this object; the Eskimo Nebula. Object information below as well of course.

Out of Time

“What a wonder it is, to observe planetary nebulae or supernova remnants.  Images are great; they will certainly show you the object with much greater color and detail.  But there’s something; almost, romantic, to see them with your own eyes; looking through the eyepiece, back into time.

As you observe them, your mind may start to wander. Was there life there amongst that stars planets?  Was there a species there who also loved the stars as we do?  Did they long to travel to distant worlds and did they fantasize about what’s possible in the great expanse of the universe?  More importantly, were they interplanetary, interstellar, did they do what was necessary for their species to survive?  Or did they hesitate, and die with the star they were born with?

If there is a civilization around a star just a few tens of thousands of light years further away, that star hasn’t died yet as they see it.  From their vantage point, any inhabitants of that star system are still making those very choices that will determine what becomes of them when they appear as we see them now.

The bigger question remains.  When some alien long from now, peers through their telescope in amazement at our planetary nebula, will they spare a thought to what became of us?”

The Eskimo Nebula or NGC 2392 is one of the all-time planetary nebula classics, and this photo, one of the all-time Hubble Space Telescope classics. Discovered by Frederick William Herschel on January 17, 1787 this nebula resembles an Eskimos face surrounded by a winter parka hood when viewed through a telescope. Estimates say that approximately 10,000 years ago (as we see it) a star (HD59088), much like our own Sun began to die and its outer layers expelled into the surrounding universe by the violent stellar winds of the dying star. Though the long bright orange filaments laced throughout the outer shell are not well understood; the outer shell of material ejected into space was done so during the stars red giant phase and that material is now being ionized by the massive dose of ultraviolet radiation released from the now exposed inner layers of the 10th magnitude white dwarf remnant.

Name: NGC 2392, Caldwell 39, Eskimo Nebula, Clown Face Nebula. Central star designation: HD59088.

What is it?: Planetary nebula.

How big is it?: Approximately 0.5 of a light year in diameter.

How far away is it?: Approximately 2,800 light years.

Apparent Magnitude?: 10 or +10.

Where is it? (General): Constellation Gemini

Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 07h 29m 10.76s / DEC +20° 54′ 42.48”.

Image | This entry was posted in Astronomy (Learning), Astrophotography (DSOs), Images, Nebula (Planetary), Stars (Non-Sun Related), Thinkers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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