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Running Chicken Nebula

Lambda Centauri Nebula, C100, IC 2944, IC 2948
Contains the Lambda Centauri Cluster, IC 2944

Proper NamesRunning Chicken Nebula, Lambda Centauri Nebula
Caldwell NumberC100
NGC/IC NumbersIC 2944, IC 2948
Right Ascension11h 38m 20s
Declination-63° 22' 22"
Distancec.6,500 light years
c.2,000 parsecs
MagnitudeApparent: +4.5
Absolute: -0.9
Mean DiameterApparent: 75' x 50'
Actual: 8.5 light years
Optimum VisibilityMarch / April (Usually visible from southern latitudes)

The blue third magnitude star Lambda Centauri marks the western foot of Centaurus the Centaur, where that constellation runs between Crux and Carina. This star is a little over 400 light years from the Sun, and forming a backdrop to the star is a wide cloud of bright nebulosity. This nebula lies far beyond the star, at a distance of about 6,500 light years, though it appears to surround Lambda Centauri in the skies of Earth, and is sometimes known as the Lambda Centauri Nebula. The arrangement of its clouds gives a vague impression of a bird-like shape with an open beak, and from that shape it takes its more common name of the Running Chicken Nebula.

Imagery provided by Aladin sky atlas

The nebula is filled with stars, most notably a small group of hot young stars recognised as an open cluster in its own right. This is the Lambda Centauri Cluster, IC 2944 (an IC number it shares with part of the nebula) though like its surrounding nebula it has no direct connection with the star Lambda Centauri itself.

Swimming among the stars of the cluster, and spread more widely within the nebula, are a series of dark clumps of matter known as Bok globules. These are denser regions of matter with the potential to collapse into newer stellar systems, though this kind of star formation does not appear to be currently occurring within the Running Chicken Nebula.


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