A massive cloud of dust and gas create the likeness of the pixelated protagonist of 1980s video game fame, Pac-Man.
Astrophotographers Bob and Janice Fera took this photo of the nebula, also known as NGC 281, on Sept. 8-11, 2012 from Eagle Ridge Observatory in Foresthill, Calif. The Feras used an Officina Stellare RC-360AST 14” f/8 Ritchey Chretien Cassegrain telescope with two-element field flattener to observe the nebula. An Apogee Alta U16M CCD camera with Astrodon filters was used to capture the photo.
Located about 9,200 light-years away, the Pac-Man nebula earned its moniker because the star-forming cloud appears to be chomping space in visible-light images. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers). The official name of the nebula is NGC 281 in the constellation Cassiopeia near the edge of our Milky Way.