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Nebula March Madness 2019 - Round 1

Graduate School: Applying, Living, Thesising

The Professional Student is a blog about everything grad school from the application process to my experiences living as a grad student, being a parent in grad school, and researching the role of chemistry in the evolution of our universe.

Nebula March Madness 2019 - Round 1

Olivia Wilkins

It’s March (already!?), which means it is time for MARCH MADNESS!!! This isn’t just any March Madness bracket; this bracket is out-of-this-world (sorry). Each week during the month of March, I’m planning to share some information about different nebulae named for animals. Polls on Twitter will be used to decide which nebulae progress to the next round, during which I will share some new facts about the nebulae that move on. You can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #NebulaMM2019.


What is a nebula?

A nebula is a cloud of gas and dust in outer space. Nebulae vary in size and composition and can have atomic, ionized, or even molecular gas. Some nebulae consist of molecular clouds which are sometimes affectionately called stellar nurseries (if they contain star-forming regions, that is!).

Nebulae are often named for what observers think they look like, and I've selected 16 nebulae that have been named for animals. I've divided these up into those named for birds, mammals, sea creatures, and bugs, and each week we will eliminate a handful of nebulae and learn a bit more about the rest.

ROUND 1: Physical Characteristics

This round focuses on some quick stats: broad physical characteristics like coordinates, distance, and radius.


Eagle Nebula vs. Emu Nebula

Eagle Nebula (Image: ESO)

Right ascension: 18h19m
Declination: -13°49’

Distance: 7,000 lightyears
Radius: ~70 x 55 lightyears

Constellation: Serpens

Emu Nebula (Image: A. Fujii) - complex including Coalsack Nebula

Right ascension: 12h50m
Declination: -62°30’

Distance: 600 lightyears
Radius: 30 - 35 lightyears

Constellation: Crux

Owl Nebula vs. Parrot’s Head Nebula

Owl Nebula (image: K. Quattrocchi)

Right ascension: 11h14m
Declination: +55°01’

Distance: 2,000 lightyears
Radius: 0.9 lightyears

Constellation: Ursa Major

Parrot’s Head Nebula or Seagull Nebula (Image: M. Sidonio)

Right ascension: 07h04m
Declination: -10°27’

Distance: 3,650 lightyears
Radius: 50 lightyears

Constellation: Monoceros


Cat’s Paw Nebula vs. Horse Head Nebula

Cat’s Paw Nebula (Image: ESO)

Right ascension: 17h19m
Declination: -35°58’

Distance: 5,500 lightyears
Radius: 40 lightyears

Constellation: Scorpius

Horsehead Nebula (Image: K. Crawford)

Right ascension: 05h41m
Declination: -02°27’

Distance: 1,500 lightyears
Radius: 3.5 lightyears

Constellation: Orion

Monkey Head Nebula vs. Otter Nebula

Monkey Head Nebula (Image: S. Hamel)

Right ascension: 06h10m
Declination: +20°30’

Distance: 6,400 lightyears

Constellation: Orion

Otter Nebula (unofficial name for NGC 604, courtesy of @bispectral/@letstessallate on Twitter; Image: Hubble)

Right ascension: 01h35m
Declination: +30°47’

Distance: 2,700,000 lightyears
Radius: 760 lightyears

Constellation: Triangulum


Crab Nebula vs. Lobster Nebula

Crab Nebula (Image: NASA/ESA)

Right ascension: 05h35m
Declination: +22°01’

Distance: 6,500 lightyears
Radius: 5.5 lightyears

Constellation: Taurus

Lobster Nebula (Image: J. Jennings)

Right ascension: 17h24m
Declination: -34°20’

Distance: 8,000 lightyears

Constellation: Scorpius

Manatee Nebula vs. Turtle Nebula

Manatee Nebula (Image: NRAO/AUI/NSF, K. Golap, M. Goss; NASA’s Wide Field Survey)

Right ascension: 19h12m
Declination: +04°59’

Distance: 18,000 lightyears

Constellation: Aquila

Turtle Nebula (Image: J. Poepsel and S. Binnewies)

Right ascension: 16h44m
Declination: +23°48’

Distance: 6,500 lightyears

Constellation: Hercules


Ant Nebula vs. Butterfly Nebula

Ant Nebula (Image: NASA/ESA)

Right ascension: 16h17m
Declination: -51°59’

Distance: 8,000 lightyears
Radius: 1 lightyear

Constellation: Norma

Butterfly Nebula (Image: NASA/ESA)

Right ascension: 17h14m
Declination: -37°06’

Distance: 3,400 lightyears
Radius: >1.5 lightyears

Constellation: Scorpius

Red Spider Nebula vs. Tarantula Nebula

Red Spider Nebula (Image: ESO)

Right ascension: 18h05m
Declination: -19°51’

Distance: 5,000 lightyears
Radius: 1.1 lightyear

Constellation: Sagittarius

Tarantula Nebula (Image: TRAPPIST/E. Jehin/ESO)

Right ascension: 05h39m
Declination: -69°06’

Distance: 160,000 lightyears
Radius: 930 lightyears

Constellation: Dorado

Which nebulae are your picks? Share in the comments, and don't forget to follow along on Twitter!