Friday, 26 January 2018

NGC1555: Hind's Variable Nebula

T Tauri is a very young star that's only just emerged from the cocoon of dust and gas in which it was born. Fusion's just ignited in its core but is still unstable. Soon, this star will blow away the dust that's still surrounding it and grow into adulthood as a stable main-sequence star, fusing hydrogen into helium. 

For the moment we're not quite there yet as you can see. The star has a distinct yellow-orangy colour and varies in brightness as fusion still needs to stabilise. The surrounding dust glows in its light, obviously with the same variations as the star. I had the impression that also the nebula appeared slightly yellowish, but that's obviously an optical illusion due to the proximity of such a strongly coloured star. Still I couldn't resist adding a bit of yellow to the nebula too, for artistic reasons and because it renders the illusion at the eyepiece. 

It also seems that this nebula was significantly brighter when it was discovered in the late 19th century. The famous German astronomer Friedrich Struve reportedly found another, similar nebula very close to NGC1555 and this discovery was confirmed by others. Strangely enough, this nebula, which had been catalogued as NGC1554, couldn't be found anymore a decade after its discovery, nor has it been found ever since. Scientists now speculate that it was a transient portion of the same reflection nebula complex. 

T Tauri and its surrounding nebula lie approximately 500 light-years away.


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