Deneb and the North America Nebula, July 12, 2007. The bright star on the right of the photograph is Alpha Cygni, also called Deneb. It is one of the brightest stars in the summer sky, and yet it is located a phenomenal 1,600 light years away. It would take 60,000 of our suns to radiate as much light as this one star!
This part of the Milky Way in the constellation Cygnus is particularly rich in stars, and a wonderful place to explore with binoculars on a warm summer night. The magenta-red glowing cloud on the left of the photograph is the North America Nebula. Look for the "Gulf of Mexico" in the lower left, and the rest of the shape will begin to resemble its namesake. The North America Nebula is also about 1,600 light years away, and it's an immense cloud of interstellar dust and gas about 45 light years across.
The nebula glows with the light of ionized hydrogen. Another related cloud of glowing hydrogen is the Pelican Nebula, visible "off the east coast" of the larger nebula. The North America Nebula is faintly visible under moonless, rural skies. This photograph was a 28 minute exposure.
Here is a much wider view of this part of the sky.
Astro Photography Home Page