March 25, 2023

NASA Spotlight: The Soul Nebula shines bright in today’s astronomical picture

The Soul Nebula is featured in the featured image on the website for Astronomy Picture of the Day on Tuesday (14). It is designated as “Westerhout 5” (or just “W5”) and is located about 6,500 light-years away from us, in the direction of the constellation Cassiopeia.

Inside, the Soul Nebula is home to some open stellar clusters and structures that are hidden by dark dust. Amidst these formations, there are still large bubbles born from the winds of nearby massive stars.

In the image above, the Soul Nebula is shown recorded at different exposures in different colours, indicating what elements are there. Thus, hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen appear in shades of red, yellow, and blue, respectively.

This nebula spans about 100 light-years. Usually, it appears in images with IC 1805, a nebula also found in the constellation Cassiopeia known as the “Heart Nebula” due to its shape.

Learn more about the Heart and Soul Nebula

Both the Soul Nebula and the Heart Nebula are emission nebulae that glow intensely in reddish hues, coming from the hydrogen in their structures. Together, they span about 300 light-years.

They are like massive star-producing factories with large cavities opened up by the stars’ radiation and winds. Within these vents, gas and dust accumulate to form new stars. They are very young, a few million years old.

This pair of nebulae forms a large star-forming region in the Perseus arm of the Milky Way. It is farther from the center of our galaxy than Orion, an arm that probably spans 3,500 light-years and is home to the Solar System.

source: APOD