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IC 5067-70, the Pelican Nebula, is a large but low-surface-brightness emission nebula in Cygnus. It is part of a nebula complex which also includes the famous North American Nebula, which is situated just a small move east of IC 5067-70, as well as other smaller patches of nebulosity to the south. The Pelican nebula was named for its resemblance to that animal, the body being the brightest part and the beak stretching away towards the lower left. The true distance of the whole nebula complex is not well known, but it is thought to be within our Galaxy's next spiral arm, called the Cygnus arm, at a distance of about 1.500 light years.
The nebulosity emits all of its light in isolated emission lines. The most prominent of those is the Hα line, which was exclusively recorded to obtain the image shown above, displayed here in gray tones. At a wavelength of 656 nm, it is located at the red end of the visual spectral range, and cannot be not very well perceived by the human eye during nighttime.
IC 5067-70 - Pelican Nebula in narrow-band filters, natural colors, which this image is part of.
Immediately west of NGC 7000, in mid-Atlantic, so to speak, the Pelican Nebula, IC 5067-70, is located. It is smaller and less bright than the North America Nebula. A magnification of about 40x is a good choice, and an UHC or OIII filter is recommended (in small scopes only an UHC can be used, with an OIII the image becomes to dark) although in nights of superb transparency the nebula is also visible without filter in a 6" scope. Under dark skies an astonishing amount of structure can be found in the Pelican, including the beak, the dark intrusion between beak and body of the animal, the bonnet and the irregular outline of the nebula to the south. Small telescopes (smaller than 4") might not show the nebula at all and big ones (greater than 8") offer only a small field of view, making it possible to get lost in this area. But the views of both nebulae in big telescopes closely resemble photographs of the region.
The dark nebula separating the North America and Pelican Nebulae is LDN 935. It is responsible for the sharp nebula edges and good contrast in the Florida/Gulf of Mexico regions of NGC 7000.
The successful observation of nebulae is a skill to be learned. A beginner will not be able to see the faint structure which is readily visible to the experienced observer, as the eye has to be trained and you have to learn what to look for.
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© 2011 Walter Koprolin