Pictures of the Running Chicken Nebula

Facts about IC 2944, also known as the Running Chicken Nebula, and the strange dark globules seen within the cosmic cloud.

IC2944/8 The Running Chicken by David Trotter, Sydney, Australia. Equipment: Takahashi FSQ106n, Sbig sTL6303e, Astrodon narrow Band filters, AP900 Equatorial mount.

IC 2944 is a star-forming region and emission nebula located 6,000 lightyears away in the constellation Centaurus.

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The nebula spans 100 lightyears across and is also known as the Running Chicken Nebula, due to its apparent similarity in appearance to a cosmic chicken running across the deep sky. Perhaps it’s being chased by the Running Man Nebula!

Whether or not there is indeed a similarity between the nebula and scurrying poultry, the name has stuck, making IC 2944 another addition to the list of nebulae that look like animals.

The reddish glow that can be seen in many images of IC 2944 is typical of emission nebulae, as newborn stars blast surrounding cosmic gas with radiation, causing it to glow.

IC 2944 Running Chicken Nebula by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia. Equipment: ED120 Black Diamond Refractor, AZ EQ6 mount, ST 80 Guidescope, Synguider, Canon 600D modded.
IC 2944 Running Chicken Nebula by Tom Bishton, Brisbane, Australia. Equipment: ED120 Black Diamond Refractor, AZ EQ6 mount, ST 80 Guidescope, Synguider, Canon 600D modded.

Embedded within the nebula is an open star cluster known as Caldwell 100 – part of the Caldwell Catalogue conceived by Patrick Moore – or Collinder 249.

The Running Chicken Nebula is also well-known because of a feature known as Thackeray’s Globules, which are named after British astronomer Andrew David Thackeray who observed them in 1950.

These are a type of small dark nebula called Bok globules, which are small clouds of gas and dust so dense they block out optical light.

Thackeray's Globules, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgment: Bo Reipurth (University of Hawaii)
Thackeray’s Globules, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgment: Bo Reipurth (University of Hawaii)

Below is a selection of images of IC 2944 captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers.

For advice on photographing a nebula, read our guide to deep-sky astrophotography or discover our pick of the best astrophotography cameras.

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And don’t forget to send us your images or share them with us via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

IC2944/8 The Running Chicken by David Trotter, Sydney, Australia. Equipment: Takahashi FSQ106n, Sbig sTL6303e, Astrodon narrow Band filters, AP900 Equatorial mount.
IC2944/8 The Running Chicken by David Trotter, Sydney, Australia. Equipment: Takahashi FSQ106n, Sbig sTL6303e, Astrodon narrow Band filters, AP900 Equatorial mount.
IC 2944 Running Chicken Nebula by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Equipment: APO 80mm, ASI 174mm, H alpha.
IC 2944 Running Chicken Nebula by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Equipment: APO 80mm, ASI 174mm, H alpha.
Chicken Nebula Running by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Equipment: Esprit 150mm triplet, Qhy 16200, Ha, Sii, Oiii
Chicken Nebula Running by Fernando Oliveira De Menezes, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Equipment: Esprit 150mm triplet, Qhy 16200, Ha, Sii, Oiii