|Designation|| NGC 2024|
|Right ascension||05h 41m 54s|
|Declination||-01° 51′ 0.0″|
|Type of object||Emission nebula|
|Dimensions||30' x 30'|
|Magnitude|| Apparent Mag: +2|
Absolute Mag: -6.1
|Distance from Earth||1,350 ly|
|Radial velocity||8.65 km/s|
The Flame nebula (NGC 2024, Sharpless 277) is an emission nebula found in the constellation of Orion. It is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which is also home to other famous nebulae such as the Orion nebula and the Horsehead nebula. Discovered in 1786 by William Herschel, it is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. It is best seen from the Northern hemisphere in winter.
Properties and Structure
The nebula is thought to be 1,350 light years away and so its apparent size of 30 x 30 arcminutes corresponds to a physical size of around 12 light years. The nebula is thought to have a mass of around 20 solar masses. A large dust lane in the foreground obscures part of the nebula.
The Flame nebula is illuminated primarily by the light of the easternmost star on Orion's belt, Alnitak (Zeta Orionis). Alnitak is in reality a system of stars, a blue supergiant and two smaller companions of the fourth magnitude. With an absolute magnitude of -6.0, Zeta Orionis is the most luminous O type star in the night sky and 35,000 times brighter than the Sun. The large amount of dust surrounding the star makes it appear 4 billion times dimmer than it really is. The Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telescope among other telescopes have determined the nebula contains a cluster of hot stars, 86% of which have circumstellar disks. These telescopes observe in the x-ray and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum so were not affected by dust in the foreground. These are disks of material, mostly dust and gas, that surround the star and are often toroidal (doughnut shaped) or flat in shape.