Incredible Astrophoto: Thor’s Helmet in Canis Major

Thor’s Helmet Nebula (NGC 2359) in the constellation of Canis Major. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

At first glance, you might expect this beautiful image to be from a big ground-based observatory or even one of the space telescopes. But this image was taken by “amateur” astronomer Rolf Wahl Olsen. We’ve featured his work before, and he’s done amazing stuff – such as the first amateur image of another solar system — but even he says this latest image of an emission nebula might be his best image to date.

It’s a stunning look at what is known as Thor’s Helmet. This helmet-shaped feature (complete with wings!) is an emission nebula is located in the constellation of Canis Major, about 15,000 light years from Earth. The nebula is a large expanding bubble illuminated by a central star in its last stage of life — a massive Wolf-Rayet star which is shedding its outer layers of gas at an extremely high rate due to intense radiation pressure. Wolf-Rayet stars are thought to represent a brief stage of evolution near the end of life for giant super massive stars; the last unstable phase before the star explodes as a brilliant supernova.

The nebula is some 30 light years in diameter is embedded among a dense star field consisting of thousands of multi-colored stars, adding more beauty to the scene.

Thanks to Rolf for sharing this gorgeous image with Universe Today.

Here’s more details from Rolf:
Date: 8th, 14th, 19th December 2012 and 5th, 6th, 9th January 2013
Exposure: LRGB: 530:44:33:33m, total 10hrs 40mins @ -28C
Telescope: 10″ Serrurier Truss Newtonian f/5
Camera: QSI 683wsg with Lodestar guider
Filters: Astrodon LRGB E-Series Gen 2
Taken from his observatory in Auckland, New Zealand

A wider view:

Thor's Helmet in Canis Major. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.
Thor's Helmet in Canis Major. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

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