Nebulae With Weird Names

Scientists don’t care if a Nebula is light-years in diameter and has a black hole in the middle. If it has a weird shape, it’s getting a weird name. Here are 10 weird named nebulas. 


Simeis 147, Spaghetti Nebula

Spaghetti Nebula

You might get hungry just by looking at this nebula, or feel a sudden desire to stick a fork into it.

This is Simeis 147. It was formed by the remnants of a supernova. 

It was discovered in 1952 with a 25” telescope. It is extremely difficult for regular astronomers to observe due to its extremely low brightness.

It is approximately 3000 light-years away and 40,000 years old. 

Its diameter is 15 light-years, which is around three hundred trillion kilometers. This is a relatively small size for a nebula.

To give a sense of its size, it would take a human-made spaceship to travel from one end to another 10 billion years.

Manatee Nebula
Manatee Nebula(W50), NASA - Manatee in Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida (Tracy Colson)

Manatee Nebula(W50), NASA – Manatee in Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida (Tracy Colson)

Manatee Nebula

W50 Nebula was discovered in 2011 by NRAO. Because of the uncanny similarity, it was named after the endangered species, sea cows

The Manatee Nebula is also composed of leftover materials of a supernova, which occurred 20,000 years ago. 

Black Hole of W50 and the Nearby Star, Illustration, NRAO

It has a black hole in the middle that is sucking in material from a nearby star. Because of the powerful combination of the magnetic field lines between the star and the black hole, most of the material escapes the system rapidly, expanding the nebula.

The result is a gigantic gas cloud that is 700 light-years across. 

The Manatee Nebula is located in the Aquila constellation if you ever want to observe it yourself.

Jellyfish Nebula(IC 443), NASA, Hubble Space Telescope 

Jellyfish Nebula

The Jellyfish Nebula was discovered in 1995 by ROSAT.

It is 5,000 light-years away and 70 light-years across. 

It has either a rapidly spinning neutron star or a pulsar in the middle.

Although numerous studies were published about this nebula, its true age is unknown

Crab Nebula, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope

Crab Nebula

In July 1054, Chinese astronomers recorded a spectacularly bright object in the night sky. The object was so bright it was comparable to the Moon. It was a supernova, a massive explosion that ends a stars life.

In the thousand years that followed the explosion, the leftovers of the supernova have created the Crab Nebula, one of the most famous astronomical objects of our time. It was given the name “crab” due to its tentacle-like structure.

The young nebula is 5.5 light-years across, fairly small for a nebula. It has a town-sized pulsar in its middle that is spinning 30 times per second.

The Soap Bubble Nebula, University of Alaska

The Soap Bubble Nebula, T. Rector, H. Schweiker , WIYNNOAOAURANSF

Soap Bubble Nebula

Soap Bubble Nebula was discovered in July 2008 by an amateur astronomer, Dave Jurasevich. He discovered the nebula with a 160mm refractor telescope, which can be bought for around 13,000$. It may not be cheap, but it is mesmerizing that an amateur astronomer, not NASA or any scientific observatory, can still discover a nebula.

The Soap Bubble Nebula is around 5,000 light-years away and is located in the Cygnus constellation.

The spherical shape of the gas cloud is spectacularly symmetrical.

The Lemon Slice Nebula

Lemon Slice Nebula, Hubble Space Telescope, Howard Bond, Robin Ciardullo

Lemon Slice Nebula 

This relatively young nebula is only 0.4 light-years across. It is located inside Camelopardalis and is 4,500 light-years away. 

The nebula is the result of the death of a star that is like our Sun. As the fuel of the star runs out, its material expands. After a point in time, the force of gravity is larger than the nuclear thrust inside the core. Therefore the star collapses into itself.

Due to the collapse, most of the material is catapulted into space. And a nebula is formed.

The Oyster Nebula, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope 

The Oyster Nebula, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope 

Oyster Nebula

The Oyster Nebula was discovered by William Herschel in 1787. 

It is 5,000 light-years away.

The bright dot in the middle, which is a star, resembles a pearl. This led to the famous nickname “Oyster”. 

The unusual thing is that this nebula pulsates. It changes brightness every 30 minutes, which is why it is studied heavily by scientists.

 Soccer Ball Nebula, Gemini Observatory 

Soccer Ball Nebula

The Soccer Ball Nebula was discovered in 2011 by an amateur astronomer. It was located while processing an image of the Cygnus Constellation. 

The nebula is the result of a dying stars’ ejections of matter. It is approximately 13,000 light-years away. 

It is one of the rare symmetrically spherical nebulae. 

The Egg Nebula, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope

Egg Nebula

The Egg Nebula was previously thought to be a galaxy couple located in Cygnus. Photography of the Hubble Telescope proved it to be a star turning into a white dwarf in rapid pulsations of gas. This, of course, resulted in a nebulae

The Egg Nebula is 3,000 light-years away and is 0.2 light-years in diameter.

It is one of the youngest and rapidly evolving nebulae ever found.

It was given the name “egg” due to its similarity to a baby chick pecking its way out of an egg.

Cotton Candy Nebula

 The Cotton Candy Nebula, NASA, Hubble Space Telescope 

Cotton Candy Nebula

Due to its small coverage of the night-sky and low brightness, this nebula was hard to spot. However, under ideal conditions, Hubble Space Telescope managed to take a fairly detailed image.

The Cotton Candy Nebula is 9,650 light-years away from Earth and is located in the constellation Ara.

This nebula is actually in the phase of forming. The star in the middle is pulsating matter in opposite directions while turning into a white dwarf.

The Boomerang Nebula, Hubble

Honorable Mention: Boomerang Nebula, Coldest Place in the Universe

The Boomerang Nebula was discovered in 1980 by Australian astronomers. It was located in the Centaurus constellation and is estimated to be 5,000 light-years away.

The symmetrical shape is again, due to a red giant that is in the phase of dying. The star ejects matter in opposite directions, which results in a nebula.

The amazing facts about this nebula is that it is the coldest known location in the Universe. The temperature of the nebula is measured at 1K, colder than the background radiation left by The Big Bang.