Pictures of the California Nebula

NGC 1499 is an emission nebula that looks rather like the US state of California. Discover facts about and images of the California Nebula.

California Nebula by Dan Crowson, New Florence, Missouri, USA.

A favourite deep-sky target of American astrophotographers for obvious reasons, NGC 1499 the California Nebula is located about 1,000 lightyears away and stretches about 100 lightyears long.

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The nebula’s cosmic glow is most likely caused by Xi Persei, the scorching hot blue star that can be seen beside it.

The California Nebula is found in the Orion Arm of our Milky Way galaxy, and has been given its informal nickname because its shape resembles the outline of the US state of California.

Given California’s contribution to spaceflight and astronomy over the years – from NASA’s Ames Research Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratory to the rockets that launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the many universities that offer renowned astronomy and astrophysics programmes – maybe it’s only right that the the Golden State has a nebula named after it.

A Perseid meteor seen in the night sky above Corfe Castle, Dorset, United Kingdom, 12 August 2016. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
A Perseid meteor seen in the night sky above Corfe Castle, Dorset, United Kingdom, 12 August 2016. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

The California Nebula can be seen from Earth in the Perseus constellation, which just so happens to be the radiant of one of the most prolific annual meteor showers seen from Earth, the Perseid meteor shower.

Perhaps next time you’re travelling to a dark-sky site for a spot of meteor-watching during Perseids season, you might bring along your telescope and see if you can observe this wonderful nebula too.

Below is a selection of some of the best images of the California Nebula captured by readers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine and astrophotographers over the years.

For more on astrophotography, browse our astrophotography guides or find out which are the best astrophotography cameras.

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And if you would like to submit your astro images to the magazine, read our guide on how to send us your images or get in touch via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

California Nebula by Doug German, Reading, Berkshire, UK.
California Nebula by Doug German, Reading, Berkshire, UK. Equipment: Nikon D70 modded, 55-200 Nikkor lens, EQ5 unguided, Baader Neodymium filter.
California Nebula by David Liaromatis, Grove, UK.
California Nebula by David Liaromatis, Grove, UK. Equipment: Altair 115mm triplet, QHY8 OSC.
California Nebula by Andrea Pistocchini, Germignaga(VA), Italy.
California Nebula by Andrea Pistocchini, Germignaga(VA), Italy. Equipment: Tecnosky 80/480 with 0,8x reducer, Canon 450D, Neq6-PRO, Skywatcher 70/500, qhy5 II Mono.
California Nebula by Stephen Gill, Yorkshire Dales, UK.
California Nebula by Stephen Gill, Yorkshire Dales, UK. Equipment: canon 600d modified, 300m f/5 lens, neq6 pro mount.
California Nebula by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK.
California Nebula by Chris Heapy, Macclesfield, UK. Equipment: Televue NP127is, Moravian G4-16000, 10-Micron GM2000HPS.
California Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK.
California Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 150p, EQ5, Canon 350d (mono), 6nm Ha Clip Filter, PHD2 guiding (ST80 & QHY5L-II)
California Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK.
California Nebula by Alastair Woodward, Derby, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 150p, HEQ5, Canon 350d (mono), 6nm Ha Clip Filter, PHD2 guiding (ST80 & QHY5L-II)
California Nebula by Rob Little, Corbridge, Northumberland, UK.
California Nebula by Rob Little, Corbridge, Northumberland, UK. Equipment: ATIK 383L with Baader RGB and Narrow band filters, Borg 77EDII f4.6, NEQ6 mount, Lodestar autoguider.
California Nebula by Dan Crowson, New Florence, Missouri, USA.
California Nebula by Dan Crowson, New Florence, Missouri, USA. Equipment: SBIG ST-8300M, Astro-Tech AT90EDT (f/6.7 603mm).
California Nebula by James Robertson, Croydon, UK.
California Nebula by James Robertson, Croydon, UK. Equipment: Canon 750d astro modified, Skywatcher Esprit 80ed f5/400mm.
California Nebula by Mario Richter, Finsterwalde, Südbrandenburg, Germany.
California Nebula by Mario Richter, Finsterwalde, Südbrandenburg, Germany. Equipment: Takahashi TSA 102/816 with Reducer Tak FS TAO 612mm, Sky Watcher EQ6, AMP Image Master, MGEN 2, Canon 60d mod, IDAS LPS D1 filter, 20x600sek, Darks.
California Nebula by Joseph Stafford, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK.
California Nebula by Joseph Stafford, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK. Equipment: Celestron CG5 Advanced GT, Skywatcher Evostar ED80, Canon EOS 1200D, Astronomik clip in CLS + Baader UV/IR cut, Baader 7Nm Hydrogen Alpha.
California Nebula by Joseph Stafford, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK.
California Nebula by Joseph Stafford, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK. Equipment: Modified Canon EOS 1200D, Skywatcher ED80 DS PRO, Celestron CG5 Advanced GT.
California Nebula by Joseph Stafford, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK.
California Nebula by Joseph Stafford, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, UK. Equipment: Skywatcher 80ED DS PRO f/7.5 refractor, Celestron CG5 Advanced GT, Canon EOS 1200D, Astronomik CLS, Baader 7nm Ha