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Today is October 29, 2020

NASA ‘Cosmic Reef’ portrait comes to Mississippi

NASA ‘Cosmic Reef’ portrait comes to Mississippi

Rainwater Observatory in French Camp was recently selected by NASA to receive a full-color banner featuring a spectacular new celestial portrait nicknamed, “Cosmic Reef.”

The portrait was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The massive banner was created and released to commemorate Hubble’s 30 years of operation. There was a very limited number of these awarded and after a rigorous selection process, Rainwater was one of only 74 facilities across 50 states, and the only one here in Mississippi, to receive the banner.

The banner is a major addition to the observatory’s lecture exhibits hall.

In the Hubble portrait, the giant red nebula (NGC 2014) and its smaller blue neighbor (NGC 2020) are part of a vast, star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, located 163,000 light-years away.

The image is nicknamed “Cosmic Reef” because NGC 2014 resembles part of a coral reef floating in a vast sea of stars. Some of the stars in NGC 2014 are monsters.

The nebula’s sparkling centerpiece is a grouping of bright, hefty stars, each 10 to 20 times more massive than the Sun. The seemingly isolated blue nebula at lower left (NGC 2020) has been created by a solitary mammoth star 200,000 times brighter than the Sun. The blue gas was ejected by the star through a series of eruptive events during which it lost part of its outer envelope of material.

Although the observatory is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19, private group visits can be scheduled. Visit rainwaterobservatory.org or call 662-547-7283 for more information.

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