Pictures of the Pacman Nebula
The Pacman Nebula, NGC 281, is located 6,500 lightyears from Earth and bears an uncanny resemblance to the iconic video game character.
What would a cosmic Pacman eat? Would it munch its way across the Universe, sucking up stars and planets while attempting to avoid the fate of being swallowed up by a black hole?
Anyone who has ever come across images of NGC 281 may have wondered something similar! Known also as the Pacman Nebula, this celestial object is located about 6,500 lightyears from Earth and bears an uncanny resemblance to the iconic video game character.
NGC 281 is a star cluster containing high-mass stellar specimens that emanate powerful streams of charged particles known as stellar winds into space.
Radiation from these stars causes the surrounding gas to glow, while a large swathe of dark cosmic dust produces a pizza-slice shadow that gives that gives the Pacman Nebula its nickname.
However, the dark dust that forms the Pacman Nebula's 'mouth' is visible in optical light, but not in Spitzer Space Telescope / Chandra X-ray Telescope views of the region, as seen below.
The Spitzer Space Telescope observed the cosmos in infrared, which is a useful tool for peering through cosmic dust and enabling astronomers to get a closer look at stars embedded deep within a nebula.
Below is a selection of images of the Pacman Nebula captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers from around the world.