Five Most Unusual Stellar Nebulae

Nebulae are like the abstract art gallery of our vast and perplexing universe.

Nebulae are some of the most spectacular yet complex structures in the universe. They seem quite appealing to laypersons and astronomers alike. Close observations and studies of nebulae help shed some light on the process of star formation. While studying nebulae helps researchers comprehend the birth of stars and stellar evolution, these also perplex us by their complexity, features, and chemistry. Here is a list of the five most unusual nebulae out of the bunch.

Waterfall Nebula

The Waterfall Nebula is one of the most mysterious structures in our galaxy, lying nearly 1,500 light-years away in the Orion Molecular Cloud. A hypothesis suggests that the gas filaments within the nebula are caused by stellar winds blowing from a young star lying hidden in Orion’s nearby molecular cloud, but this theory is considered incomplete, as the fainter gas streams appear to converge on an unusual source of non-thermal radio near the structure’s upper left portion.

Calabash Nebula

Calabash is a proto-planetary nebula located nearly 5,000 light-years away, within the Puppis constellation’s open cluster of the Messier 46. This nebula resembles a “broken egg” and has hydrogen-sulfide chemicals and sulfur compounds, and it emits a revolting smell, very familiar to that of rotten eggs. Thus, Calabash is considered the “smelliest” nebula of all!

Barnard 68

No, Barnard 68 is not a black hole. It is a very dense and cold nebula that is largely responsible for absorbing the light emitted by the stars that are positioned beyond it. Barnard 68 is approximately 500 light-years away and can be spotted in the Ophiuchus constellation. Since the nebula obstructs all of the light from the stars behind, astronomers have suggested that the cloud is cosmically very close to our planet.

The Necklace Nebula

The Necklace nebula is popular for its enthralling feature and lies about 15,000 light-years from our planet, near the Sagitta constellation. Through numerous observations conducted by Hubble Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, it has been ascertained by astronomers that the emission of the blue element from the nebula indicates the presence of hydrogen, the green beam corresponds to oxygen, while the red portions are caused by the presence of nitrogen.

The Egg Nebula

The Egg Nebula is in the Cygnus constellation, nearly 3,000 light-years away. The spectacular appearance of the nebula is caused by four distinct light beams bursting through the dust shroud. The mechanism behind these shining beams has not been deciphered yet. However, few scientists hypothesize the existence of four circular holes in the cloud, possibly caused as a result of a once-binary system, which enables the light to shine.

These hidden gems never cease to intrigue us with their unusual shapes and wonderful glowing beams of light.


Satavisha hails from the city of joy, Kolkata. She took up writing as my profession amid the pandemic when the world was at a standstill. Here, she acquired a balance between her passion for writing and sharing various ideas and facts through her stories.
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