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Hubble scientists revisit an incredible image of Veil Nebula, showing off new details

In 2015, the Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of the Veil Nebula. NASA has revisited this image and applied new processing techniques, bringing out even finer details of the nebula.

NASA, ESA/Hubble and Z. Levay have been able to bring out additional details in the ionized gas that makes up the threads and filaments of the nebula. Observations taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 instrument using five different filters were combined with new post-processing methods to create the new image. You can see enhanced details of emissions from doubly ionized oxygen (seen in the image as blue colors), ionized hydrogen, ionized sulfur (green) and ionized nitrogen (seen as reds in the photo).

This close-up image of the Veil Nebula was first captured in 2015. It has been reprocessed to show a better view of the nebula and its filaments of ionized gas. The ionized gas is all that remains of a supernova that about 20 times the mass of the Sun. ‘The fast-moving blast wave from the ancient explosion is plowing into a wall of cool, denser interstellar gas, emitting light. The nebula lies along the edge of a large bubble of low-density gas that was blown into space by the dying star prior to its self-detonation.’ Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Z. Levay

The Veil Nebula is about 2,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, otherwise known as the ‘Swan.’ As NASA writes, in astronomical terms, Cygnus is a relatively close neighbor.

100% crop of the above image. To download the massive image for yourself, click here.

Astronomer William Herschel first identified the Veil Nebula way back in 1784. In 1904, Herschel’s work was followed by Williamina Fleming’s discovery of a fainter portion of the nebula, known as Pickering’s Triangle, named after the director of the Harvard College Observatory where Fleming worked. If you’d like to view the Veil Nebula for yourself, the best observation time is early autumn in the northern hemisphere and early spring in the southern hemisphere. The nebula is not visible to the naked eye, but it can be seen through a telescope or binoculars under dark sky conditions. If you have a nebula filter, it will help brighten the Veil’s appearance and allow you to see additional detail.

The Veil Nebula is a visible portion of the Cygnus Loop, which is the remnant of a supernova formed about 10,000 years ago. The Veil Nebula formed through the death of a massive star, which possessed roughly 20 times the mass of the Sun. Like other stars of that size, it had a relatively short lifespan and died with a massive release of energy. The energy and debris from this supernova form the Veil Nebula’s tendrils of ionized gas.

The 2015 version of the image of the Veil Nebula. Image credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team

The original image and the reprocessed version show only a small section of the Veil Nebula, which is continually expanding. The entire nebula is 110 light-years across, covering about six full moons’ worth of the night sky as viewed from Earth. The section we see in the shot from Hubble, which is a six-image composite, is about two light-years across.

Back in 2015, when showing off its new image of the Veil Nebula, NASA also shared a couple of neat videos. The videos haven’t been redone with the latest processed image, but they’re nonetheless worth checking out again.

You can learn more about the Veil Nebula by visiting Hubble’s Caldwell catalog. For further reading on some of Hubble’s amazing images and discoveries, check out some of our prior coverage: