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NGC 2022

NGC 2022 is a Planetary Nebula that lies close to the head of Orion, the star Meissa that is the most northerly of those that make up the famous shape of the Hunter. It lies in the direction of nearby Betelgeuse, but despite this prominent position in the night sky, is faint magnitude of 12.4 means that it is impossible to locate without telescopic aid.

Like all Planetary Nebulae, NGC 2022 is the result of a supernova explosion, and in this case the nebula is the result of two concentric shells of matter being expelled from a central star. The expanding shells are slightly deformed, giving the entire nebula a somewhat elliptical appearance rather than a near-circular ring (as for example the Ring Nebula in Lyra) and resulting in a rich internal structure. The central star itself is still undergoing collapse, and has not yet reached its final White Dwarf state.

Estimates of the distance of the nebulae from the Sun vary up to 8,000 light years or more, making the entire ring structure about a light year in diameter. A haze of light extends outward from the main ring structure for about twice this distance again, and this is thought to be material expelled from the nebula's central star before it entered its true supernova phase.


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