5/13/10 NASA Image of the Day

Menkhib and the California Nebula

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features one of the bright stars in the constellation Perseus, named Menkhib (at upper left near the red dust cloud), surrounded by the large star-forming California Nebula, running diagonally through the image.

Menkhib is one of the hottest stars visible in the night sky; its surface temperature is about 37,000 Kelvin (about 66,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or more than six times hotter than the sun). Because of its high temperature, it appears blue-white to the human eye. It has about 40 times the mass of our sun and gives off 330,000 times the amount of light. Menkhib is a runaway star, and the fast stellar wind it blows is piling up in front of it to create a shock wave. This shock wave is heating up dust, which WISE sees as the red cloud in the upper left of the image.

Menkhib and the California Nebula are about 1,800 light-years away from Earth and are located within the same spur of the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy as Earth.

All four infrared detectors aboard WISE were used to make this image.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA


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