A Close Look At The Toby Jug Nebula


Credit: ESO

Credit: ESO

Located about 1200 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Carina (The Ship’s Keel), the Toby Jug Nebula, more formally known as IC 2220, is an example of a reflection nebula. It is a cloud of gas and dust illuminated from within by a star called HD 65750. This star, a type known as a red giant, has five times the mass of our Sun but it is in a much more advanced stage of its life, despite its comparatively young age of around 50 million years.

The nebula was created by the star, which is losing part of its mass out into the surrounding space, forming a cloud of gas and dust as the material cools. The dust consists of elements such as carbon and simple, heat-resistant compounds such as titanium dioxide and calcium oxide (lime). In this case, detailed studies of the object in infrared light point to silicon dioxide (silica) being the most likely compound reflecting the star’s light.

IC 2220 is visible as the star’s light is reflected off the grains of dust. This celestial butterfly structure is almost symmetrical, and spans about one light-year. This phase of a star’s life is short-lived and such objects are thus rare.

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