Universe Guide

What are Reflection Nebulas?

A Reflection Nebula is a large nebula cloud of interstellar gas and dust that unlike Dark Nebula, these reflect the light that comes hit them. Dark Nebulas on the other hand absorb the light.

Reflection Nebulas do not create light, those that do are emission nebulas which are slightly different. The nebula can be lit up by young stars being formed within but sometimes the nebula is too thick for the stars to be seen. CalTech

If the star is that is illuminating the nebula is hot enough and close enough, they can ionize the cloud which will then create the light on its own rather than just reflecting it. These would be referred to as emission nebulae instead.

Reflection Nebulae were first discovered back at the beginning of the 20th century. Vesto Slipher, an American astronomer in 1912 concluded that that the nebula associated with the star Merope in the Pleiades reflects the light rather than creating it. The theory was then worked on by Ejnar Hertsprung and Edwin Hubble. Wiki

Witch Head Nebula

The Witch-Head Nebula is a good example of a Reflection Nebula. Although the Witch Head Nebula is not visible with the naked eye, a good 4.5 - 6" telescope. Before buying one to see this Reflection Nebula, do ask the retailer first if the telescope will be good enough. I don't fancy getting mail saying you said...

The Witch-Head Nebula gets its light from Rigel, brightest star in the constellation of Orion even though it only has the Beta classification. The Nebula is located inside the Eridanus constellation but the light is being generated from the star in Orion.

Reflection Nebulas will tend to be blue as in the case of the Witch-Head. This is because blue light is scattered more efficiently than red light is. It is noted that that Rigel is a large blue star but it is not the reason why the nebula is blue. It is the same reason why our sky is blue during the day and red of an evening. In the evening, the light has to travel further through the atmosphere hence it is red. Sun

It should be noted that there are non-blue Reflection Nebulas. A notable red Reflection Nebula is the one that surrounds Antares, a red supergiant star in the constellation of Scorpius. Ref: Wiki, see above.

The Witch Head Nebula provided the location for the first battle in the television series Andromeda which would lead to Dylan Hunt being held in the Event Horizon of a black hole for 300 years.

Witch-Head Nebula in the constellation of Eridanus

Witch-Head Nebula in the constellation of Eridanus

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