North America

The North America Nebula (aka NGC 7000) is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus, close to Deneb, the bright star at the tail of the Swan. The nebula appears large (about 4X the area of the Moon) but very dim in the sky. It can’t be seen with the naked eye but is visible with good binoculars with a dark sky.

These four images show how the appearance of the North America nebula can change dramatically using different combinations of visible and infrared observations from the Digitized Sky Survey and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The visible-light view (upper left) shows an obvious similarity to the North America continent. The image highlights the east coast and and Gulf of Mexico. (The pink region in the right of the frame is the Pelican nebula.) The view at upper right includes both visible and infrared observations. In the bottom two images, only infrared light seen by Spitzer is shown—data from the infrared array camera is on the left and data from both the infrared array camera and the multi-band imaging photometer, which sees longer wavelengths, is on the right. These pictures show detail not seen in visible light because infrared light can penetrate dust which visible light cannot. Dusty, dark clouds in the visible image become transparent in infrared.

Image Credit: NASA

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