Valentine’s Day Nebula: IC 1805 Shows its Bright Red Cosmic Heart
Obviously, even our universe celebrates goofy greeting card holidays! In fact, from 7,500 light-years away, we’ve received a heart, known as IC 1805, the Valentine’s Day Nebula!
Valentine’s Day Nebula Characteristics
Firstly, IC 1805 mixes glowing hot gases and dark space dust to cut out a giant red heart. Plus, we see an extra bright patch in the heart’s center. Actually, this is a fiery hot, bright cluster of newborn stars. However, “newborn” in our endless universe actually means around 1.5 million years old!
As an emission nebula, massive clouds of hydrogen billow out from where a star once lived. But, nearing the end of its life, the star exploded in a wild supernova. Finally, as the leftover star continues dying, it burns and radiates extremely hot ultraviolet winds. In fact, the ultraviolet winds heat the surrounding hydrogen, causing it to glow bright red.
Valentine’s Day Nebula Location
IC 1805 sits a close 7,500 light-years away in the Perseus arm of our own Milky Way galaxy. In fact, the Valentine’s Day Nebula resides in the Cassiopeia constellation, the vain queen of Greek mythology.
Can we see the Valentine’s Day Nebula?
Simply put, yes, even backyard astronomers can view the Valentine’s Day Nebula. Actually, with its 6.5 magnitude, IC 1805 shines brighter than distant, frozen Neptune in our own solar system! However, large telescopes (8” aperture or higher) are required to resolve worthwhile detail.
But, as always, keeping reasonable expectations is key for observing nebulae. Lying trillions of miles from Earth makes color and most details impossible for human eyeballs to see clearly. As a result, the red heart will look more like a faint, gray smudged heart. In fact, some amateur astronomers claim IC 1805 looks more like a running dog through backyard telescopes!