The Pterodactyl Nebula (aka the Pelican Nebula)

The so-called “Pelican” Nebula is on the right side of this image. The “east coast” down to “florida” portion of the North American Nebula is on the left side of the image. Click for larger view.

Here is my image of the ‘Pelican’ Nebula (IC 5070). This is a large nebula located in the constellation Cygnus the Swan. It is right next to the North American Nebula. As a matter of fact the left side of the image shows the “east coast” of the North American Nebula ending in “florida” at the left edge of the image.

Just as we saw in the Horsehead Nebula what we see in the ‘Pelican’ Nebula is dark nebulae flowing in front of an emission nebula to present familiar patterns to the human eye. The ‘Pelican’s eye and lower beak is defined not by a gap in the emission nebula, but by dark nebula in the foreground.

Which creature is a better fit for IC 5070?

On thing I hope to do some day is do an etymolgical study on just how and when IC 5070 picked up the moniker ‘Pelican’. Perhaps the nebula picked up that name in times before we knew about the creature it more resembles: a pterodactyl?  A few hours searching the internet did not satisfy my curiosity about the name. Every resourse called it the ‘Pelican’. Interestingly Burnham’s Handbook talks about the North American Nebula but does not even mention IC 5070 (the Pelican) at all. Perhaps someone who reads this can help us with the etymological roots of ‘Pelican Nebula’.

As I look at the side by side drawings of the two creatures it seems pretty clear to me that IC 5070 ought to be called the Pterodactyl Nebula. What do you think?

My LRGB image of the Harbig-Haro 555 area along Martin Pugh excellent narrow-band view. Click for a larger image.

The above image was taken in LRGB filters with my QSI 583ws camera. This camera has a KAF-8300 chip which not only is wide (giving me a 1.6 degree wide field of view but also hi-resolution (8.3 megapixel). This provides both a wide angle field of view while giving reaonable detail in close ups. You can see that when you look at the detailed portion of the image in the combined image to the left.


For the time being I am showing you my LRGB image of the “Pteradactyl” Nebula. I hope in the future to aquire the neccesariy narrow-band filters and experience that help advanced astrophotographers produce those Hubble-like images that are becoming almost common place in the world of astrophotograpy. I am very pleased that the current image shows the starforming structures Herbig-Haro 555. Here is a comparison of a detailed portion of the Pelican image (look at the back of the neck in the big image) displayed next to a narrow-band Hubble-like image of the same area taken by Martin Pugh (used with permission). If you look carefully at the elongated worm like spike you will see two jets erupting from a proto-star in the head of the spike. Look carefully and you can detect the spikes in my LRGB image as well. I look forward to returning to the “Pterodaytl” Nebula one day and record a number of its details in narrow-band light.


Image composed of 60 second LRGB subs times ten. Equipment: Celestron Edge HD 14″ on CGE Pro mount. Hyperstar f/1.9 lens. QSI-583ws camera with Astrodon filters. Many thanks again to the teaching of Sam Saeed.



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6 Responses to The Pterodactyl Nebula (aka the Pelican Nebula)

  1. N Bereman says:

    I agree that it looks more like a Pteradactyl! Nice picture.

  2. John Roberts says:

    Excellent pictures and very informative, too.

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