What do you see when you look into this sky? In the center, in the dark, do you see a night sky filled with stars? Do you see a sunset to the left? Clouds all around? Do you see the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy running down the middle? Do you see the ruins of an abandoned outpost on a hill? (The outpost is on Askold Island, Russia.) Do you see a photographer with a headlamp contemplating surreal surroundings? (The image is a panorama of 38 images taken last month and compiled into a Little Planet projection.) Do you see a rugged path lined with steps? Or do you see the eye of a dragon?
Framing a bright emission region, this telescopic view looks out across a pretty field of stars along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, toward the nebula rich constellation Cygnus the Swan. Popularly called the Tulip Nebula, the reddish glowing cloud of interstellar gas and dust is also found in the 1959 catalog by astronomer Stewart Sharpless as Sh2-101. About 8,000 light-years distant and 70 light-years across the complex and beautiful nebula blossoms near the center of this composite image. Ultraviolet radiation from young energetic O stars at the edge of the Cygnus OB3 association, ionizes the atoms and powers the emission from the Tulip Nebula.