The “Pac-Man” Nebula?
This gorgeous nebula, formally known as NGC281 in the constellation Cassiopeia, goes by the informal name of “The Pac-Man Nebula.”
I don’t see a Pac-Man.
I think it’s a case where if you look at it through a telescope with your eyes, you only see the brightest parts – and then, maybe it looks a little like our beloved video game character from the 80’s.
But through a long exposure – this is over 9 hours’ worth – more intricate and beautiful details emerge. I’m drawn to the billowing clouds of gas toward the bottom of the image – you can see more of them through the blue, ionized Oxygen gas, and can almost envision yourself flying through it.
This a “narrowband” image, meaning that like Hubble photos, it is presented in false colors that tell us about the chemical makeup of the nebula. To the eye, most nebulas are just red, but through the use of special filters we can see their hidden structure.