Coalsack Nebula

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Coalsack Nebula
Dark nebula
Part of the Coalsack Nebula.jpg
The Coalsack Nebula taken by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope[1]
Observation data: J2000.0 epoch
Right ascension12h 50m
Declination−62° 30′
Distance600 ly
Apparent magnitude (V)
Apparent dimensions (V)7° × 5°
ConstellationCrux
Physical characteristics
Radius30–35 ly
Absolute magnitude (V)
Notable features
DesignationsC99
See also: Lists of nebulae

The Coalsack Nebula (Southern Coalsack, or simply the Coalsack)[2] is the most prominent dark nebula in the skies, being easily visible to the naked eye as a dark patch silhouetted against the southern Milky Way. It is located at a distance of approximately 600 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Crux.[citation needed]

General information[edit]

The Coalsack Nebula covers nearly 7° by 5° and overlaps somewhat into the neighbor constellations Centaurus and Musca.[3] The first observation was reported by Vicente Yáñez Pinzón in 1499.[4] It was named "il Canopo fosco" (the dark Canopus) by Amerigo Vespucci and was also called "Macula Magellani" (Magellan's Spot) or "Black Magellanic Cloud" in opposition to the Magellanic Clouds.[4]

The Coalsack is not present in the New General Catalogue and in fact does not have an identification number (outside of the Caldwell catalogue, in which it is C99).

A depiction of the emu in the sky, which is an Australian Aboriginal constellation consisting of dark clouds rather than of stars. The European constellation on the right is Crux, or the Southern Cross, and on the left is Scorpius. The head of the emu is the Coalsack.

The Coalsack in Australian Aboriginal astronomy forms the head of the emu in the sky in several Aboriginal cultures. Amongst the Wardaman people, it is said to be the head and shoulders of a law-man watching the people to ensure they do not break traditional law. According to a legend reported by W. E. Harney, this being is called Utdjungon and only adherence to the tribal law by surviving tribe members could prevent him from destroying the world with a fiery star.[5] There is also a reference by Gaiarbau (1880) regarding the coalsacks replicating bora rings on Earth. These astronomical sites allowed the spirits to continue ceremony similar to their human counterparts on Earth. As bora grounds are generally located on the compass points north/south, the southern coal sack indicates the initiation/ceremonial ring.

In Inca astronomy this nebula was called Yutu, meaning a partridge-like southern bird[6] or Tinamou.[7]

In fiction[edit]

The dark Coalsack Nebula can be seen as an obscuring smudge across the Milky Way.[8]

The Coalsack is mentioned in the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes "The Immunity Syndrome" and "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield", as well as 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.

In the Solar Queen series by Andre Norton, several characters swear "...by the Coalsack's Ripcord!"[9]

The Coalsack figures prominently in the Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's science fiction novel The Mote in God's Eye and its sequels, The Gripping Hand and Outies.[10]

Also, Henry De Vere Stacpoole described the Coalsack in his novel The Blue Lagoon (1908), as Lestrange observes it from the deck of the Northumberland, "In the Milky Way, near the Southern Cross, occurs a terrible circular abyss, the Coal Sack. So sharply defined is it, so suggestive of a void and bottomless cavern, that the contemplation of it afflicts the imaginative mind with vertigo. To the naked eye it is as black and dismal as death, but the smallest telescope reveals it beautiful and populous with stars. Lestrange's eyes travelled from this mystery to the burning cross, and …"[11]

The Coalsack is mentioned in the Futurama episode "Hell Is Other Robots".[12]

In the film Night on the Galactic Railroad, the character Campanella ends going to the Coalsack.

In the film The Chronicles of Riddick, the character Imam convinces Riddick to help his people against the Necromongers and says, "The Coalsack planets are gone."[13]

In Brian J. Clarke's novella The Expediter, a world of mysterious towers—and the aliens studying them—are found "behind the Coalsack".

In the game Elite Dangerous players can visit the Coalsack Nebula.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A Cosmic Sackful of Black Coal". Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Coalsack Nebula". SIMBAD. Centre de données astronomiques de Strasbourg. Retrieved 2018-09-30.
  3. ^ Darling, David J. (2004). The universal book of astronomy: from the Andromeda Galaxy to the zone of avoidance. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. p. 351. ISBN 0471265691.
  4. ^ a b "The Coalsack and the Southern Cross". ESO. 3 December 2009. Retrieved 1 October 2018.
  5. ^ Songs of the Songmen, 28–30.
  6. ^ p. 5, The Hundred Greatest Stars, James B. Kaler, New York, Copernicus Books, 2002.
  7. ^ A. F. Aveni, ed. (2010). Archaeoastronomy in the New World : American primitive astronomy : proceedings of an international conference held at Oxford University, September, 1981. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521125472.
  8. ^ "An Emu in the Sky over Paranal". www.eso.org. European Southern Observatory. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  9. ^ https://www.gutenberg.org/files/16921/16921-h/16921-h.htm
  10. ^ https://www.amazon.com/Outies-Mote-Gods-Eye-3/dp/0615434142/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1318736760&sr=1-1-catcorr
  11. ^ H. De Vere Stacpoole: ‘The Blue Lagoon’, London: Adelphi Terrace, 1908, T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., quote taken from 28th Impression (1923), p. 12, from pdf p. 28 at https://archive.org/details/bluelagoonromanc00stacrich.
  12. ^ http://theinfosphere.org/Hell_Is_Other_Robots
  13. ^ http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/c/chronicles-of-riddick-script-transcript.html

External links[edit]

Coordinates: Sky map 12h 52m 19s, −62° 25′ 28″