This image is Melotte 15, a star cluster in the heart of the Heart Nebula.
In the constellation of Cassiopeia there are two large nebulae which are often the subject of astrophotography. But they are so large that it is difficult to get them both, or even all of one of them, in the field of view. One is called the Heart Nebula, as it has the approximate shape of a human heart. Its neighbour is called the Soul Nebula. And right at the centre of the Heart Nebula are some columns of dust whose shapes are being formed by the stellar winds and radiation from a cluster of hot young stars called Melotte 15.
This star cluster is at the “heart of the Heart”. The open area in the central part of the image is the result of the gas and dust of the nebula being cleared, or blown out by the energetic young stars of Melotte 15, a few of which are nearly 50 times heavier than our Sun.
This region is about 7,500 light-years from us.
Note on colours:
This image has been taken with narrow-band filters, each sensitive only to the bright emission of a particular element (where H is the symbol for hydrogen, O for oxygen and S for sulphur). The images have then been assigned to the red (S), green (H) and blue (O) channels of the final image. Such “SHO” images are therefore false colour. If our eyes were sufficiently sensitive, we would see it as predominantly red, due to the strong emissions from the Hydrogen gas clouds.
Camera: FLI Kepler KL4040
Guide-camera: None (unguided)
Telescope: Officina Stellare Ultra-Corrected RC360
Mount: Paramount ME II
Image scale: 0.94 arcsec/pixel
Total exposure: 15h 40m
H-alpha: 73x 300 sec
O III: 61x 300 sec
S II: 54x 300 sec
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