A View of New Star Cluster and Nebula

Image of open star cluster and emission nebula NGC 6823 and NGC 6820 in the constellation Vulpecula (credit: Jeff Johnson)

Image of open star cluster and emission nebula NGC 6823 and NGC 6820 in the constellation Vulpecula (credit: Jeff Johnson)

Within the Summer Triangle, in the constellation Vulpecula, the Fox, lies a fairly new star cluster NGC 6823 embedded within the glowing gas cloud of its birthplace, the nebula NGC 6820. The image above by astrophotographer Jeff Johnson of New Mexico shows cluster and emission nebula along with a dark nebula within the brighter emission nebula that shrouds yet another round of star formation.

The star cluster NGC 6823 within this complex is just 2 million years old, so even the most massive, bluest, and hottest burning stars are still alive and burning. The light and radiation from these stars sculpts and transforms the gas and dust inside the nebula and has created a long, dark finger of dust that protrudes from the east side of the nebula and points directly to the star cluster. The finger is much like the more famous “Pillars of Creation” complex inside the Eagle Nebula, another cluster-nebula complex in the constellation Serpens.

Location of nebula NGC 6820 and star cluster NGC 6823 in Vulpecula.

Location of nebula NGC 6820 and star cluster NGC 6823 in Vulpecula.

NGC 6820 and NGC 6823 are located within the Summer Triangle just north of the small arrow-shaped constellation Sagitta and not far away from the brighter Dumbbell Nebula. Visually, the cluster is a snap in a telescope; the nebula is much more challenging because it’s spread over a full-moon-sized patch of sky. A nebula filter (OIII or UHC filter) will help you spot it with a 4″ or larger scope. Use lowest magnification with your telescope. The nebula looks like a ghostly white glow surrounding the star cluster itself.

Close-up view of the location of nebula NGC 6820 and star cluster NGC 6823 in Vulpecula.

Close-up view of the location of nebula NGC 6820 and star cluster NGC 6823 in Vulpecula.

Open star cluster NGC 6823 and emission nebula NGC 6820 are about 50 light years across and lie about 6,000 light years away along the plane of the Milky Way.

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