The California Nebula

A picture of the California Nebula

From 2014 to 2015 I spent a year out in California trying to make my way in the movie/television industry. Towards the end of my stay I got close — I interviewed for a couple of positions on Transparent! — but I ultimately had to move back to North Carolina.

So when this post from APOD (Astronomy Picture of the Day) popped up in my Twitter newsfeed, I was especially touched. I had never heard of the California Nebula before, and given the numerous space nerds I came into contact with while out in California, I was shocked it took until APOD for me to hear about it.

Here’s APOD’s summary of the image posted above:

What’s California doing in space? Drifting through the Orion Arm of the spiral Milky Way Galaxy, this cosmic cloud by chance echoes the outline of California on the west coast of the United States. Our own Sun also lies within the Milky Way’s Orion Arm, only about 1,500 light-years from the California Nebula. Also known as NGC 1499, the classic emission nebula is around 100 light-years long. On the featured image, the most prominent glow of the California Nebula is the red light characteristic of hydrogen atoms recombining with long lost electrons, stripped away (ionized) by energetic starlight. The star most likely providing the energetic starlight that ionizes much of the nebular gas is the bright, hot, bluish Xi Persei just to the right of the nebula. A regular target for astrophotographers, the California Nebula can be spotted with a wide-field telescope under a dark sky toward the constellation of Perseus, not far from the Pleiades.

For anyone remotely interested in the cosmos, following APOD is a must: here’s a link to its website and Twitter account.

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