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IC 2177 and NGC 2327 - the Seagull nebulae in a wide angle view

Short object description

IC 2177 is the center of a large H-II star formation region, mixed with blue reflection nebulae. It is an approximately circular structure, roughly centered around the Be star HD 5336, which is also called Seagull Nebula because of its coarse shape. In the image orientation of our wide angle view, the seagull flies towards the lower edge of the image, whereby the approximately circular nebula structure below the wings corresponds to the head of the seagull.

The Seagull Nebula is part of the Majoris OB 1 association and is located at a distance of about 3750 light years from the solar system. IC 2177 lies along the border between the constellations Monoceros and Canis Major.

The main components of IC 2177 are three large gas clouds. The most prominent cloud is Sharpless 2-296, which forms the "wings". Sh2-296 extends over about 100 light years from one wing tip to the other. It is the radiation from newly formed young stars that gives the clouds their fantastic colours by ionising the surrounding gas and making it glow.

Sh2-292 (also catalogued as NGC 2327 and Gum 1) is the name of the compact cloud that forms the prominent head of the seagull. In the middle of Sh2-292 is the bright, large star HD 53367, 20 times as massive as our Sun with a companion of a 5 solar masses star, orbiting HD 53367 on a strongly elliptical orbit. Sh2-292 is a mixture of emission and blue reflection nebula (vdB 93). Most of the light is emitted by ionized gas (red) surrounding the young stars.
Several smaller nebular regions are also counted as part of the Seagull Nebula, including Sh2-297, a small, knotty extension of the tip of the upper wing (left in the image). It is a reflection nebula (vdB 94) and associated with the B1 star HD 53623. Further components are still Sh2-292 and Sh2-295. Furthermore, our wide angle view of the Seagull Nebula shows a large number of bright open star clusters, including NGC 2335, NGC 2343 and Messier 50 (right in our picture). The term Sh is an shortcut for the American astronomer Stewart Sharpless, who created a catalogue (the Sharpless catalogue) of over 300 such star forming regions in our Milky Way.

IC 2177 was discovered by the Welsh amateur astronomer Isaac Roberts and described by him as "quite bright, extremely large, irregularly round and diffuse".

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