June 27 Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2022 June 27

The Gum Nebula over Snowy Mountains

Image Credit & Copyright: Wang Jin

Explanation: The Gum Nebula is so large and close it is actually hard to see. This interstellar expanse of glowing hydrogen gas frequently evades notice because it spans 35 degrees — over 70 full Moons — while much of it is quite dim. This featured spectacular 90-degree wide mosaic, however, was designed to be both wide and deep enough to bring up the Gum — visible in red on the right. The image was acquired late last year with both the foreground — including Haba Snow Mountain — and the background — including the Milky Way’s central band — captured by the same camera and from the same location in Shangri-LaYunnanChina. The Gum Nebula is so close that we are only about 450 light-years from the front edge, while about 1,500 light-years from the back edge. Named for a cosmic cloud hunter, Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum (1924-1960), the origin of this complex nebula is still being debated. A leading theory for the origin of the Gum Nebula is that it is the remnant of a million year-old supernova explosion, while a competing theory holds that the Gum is a molecular cloud shaped over eons by multiple supernovas and the outflowing winds of several massive stars.