Running Chicken & the Pearl

Lambda Centauri (IC 2948) is a large emission nebula between the the Southern Cross and the rich Carina region, around the star Lambda Centauri. The nebula spans about 70 light-years.

Star Cluster (IC 2944) is a site of active star formation, with a sprinkling of bright stars.

Lambda Centauri is a prominent Magnitude 3 star at the centre of image, and has a Magnitude 11 companion not visible here.

In the nebula, which lies around 6500 light-years from Earth, hot newborn stars that formed from clouds of hydrogen gas shine brightly with ultraviolet light. This intense radiation in turn excites the surrounding hydrogen cloud, making it glow a distinctive shade of red. This red shade is typical of star-forming regions, another famous example being the Lagoon Nebula.

Some people see a chicken shape in pictures of this red star-forming region, giving the nebula its nickname “Running Chicken” — though there is some disagreement over exactly which part of the nebula is chicken shaped, with various bird-like features in evidence across the picture. (None are apparent through my imaging anyway at such a short exposure time).

The Pearl Cluster (NGC 3766) also lies to the left of centre …. NGC 3766 is a very dense open cluster and shimmers like a pearl. It is a good binocular target, but can also be glimpsed with the naked eye from dark skies. The Pearl Cluster lies at a distance of 5500 light years.


Imaged 16th February at 10pm
Canon 7D
Canon 70-200mm L f/2.8 @ 200 – Piggy Backed
ISO 1600
50 x 15 sec – Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker


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