Thor's Helmet, Duck Nebula (NGC 2359)

NGC 2359: Thors Helmet in Canis Maior; Vixen ED-Apochromat 115 mm f/7.7, Canon EOS 20Da; 6 x 483 s, 1600 ISO; Langis 1480 m elevation; © 31. 1. 2006 Eduard von Bergen


This odd nebula, known today as NGC 2359 was discovered on 31st January 1785 by William Herschel through his 18.7 inch reflector telescope. He cataloged it as V 21 and noted: «A broad extended nebulosity. Forms a parallelogram with a ray southwards; the parallelogram 8' long 6' broad very faint». [463]. Herschel's son John was reminded of a bust depicting the head and shoulders by the sight of the nebula.

The western part of this nebula is called IC 468 because it is much fainter than the rest and was therefore not discovered until 25th February 1887 by the French astronomer Guillaume Bigourdan and noted by Dreyer in the Index catalog in 1895 would. However, this IC number is usually neglected today. [277]

NGC 2359: Image by David Malin using the 3.9m-Anglo Australian Telescope

Physical Properties

It is an emission nebula around a 10.4 mag Wolf-Rayet star (WR). These stars are characterized by very high temperatures and an extremely strong mass loss due to stellar winds. As with the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) in the constellation Cassiopeia, a spherical gas bubble was also formed here by the strong stellar winds. When the dense stellar wind meets the surrounding interstellar medium, violent collisions and turbulence occur. Spectral analyzes also show that the nebula consists of a mixture of stellar wind matter and the interstellar medium.

Revised+Historic NGC/IC, Version 22/9, © Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke [277]
NameRADecTypebMagvMagB-VSBDimPAzD(z)MDDreyer DescriptionIdentification, Remarks
NGC 235907 18 30.0-13 15 50EN11.56 × 43.670!!, vF, vvL, viFLBN 1041
NGC 236107 18 23.7-13 12 32EN3.670vvF, vSpart of N 2359
IC 46807 17 18.9-13 13 07*3vF neby, perhaps 2 or 3 st inv

How to find the Wolf-Rayet Nebula?

NGC 2359 lies in the northeastern part of Canis Maior. It is found on the Samoth (α Monocerotis) — Muliphein (γ Canis Majoris) junction, a third closer to Muliphein, between the two open star clusters NGC 2374 and NGC 2345. The nebula has about the same declination as these two star clusters and lies about on the eastern third closer to NGC 2374. The best viewing time is December to February.

Finder Chart Thor's Helmet, Duck Nebula (NGC 2359)
Thor's Helmet, Duck Nebula (NGC 2359) in constellation Canis Maior. Charts created using SkySafari 6 Pro and STScI Digitized Sky Survey. Limiting magnitudes: Constellation chart ~6.5 mag, DSS2 close-ups ~20 mag. [149, 160]

Visual Observation

200 mm aperture: Without a filter, NGC 2359 reveals itself only as a faint, diffuse glow. But as soon as you mount an O-III filter, the object becomes a feast for the eyes! Around the 10.4 mag Wolf-Rayet star, the brighter area becomes visible at the edge of the gas bubble. There are also three «arms» that emanate from the edges of the bubble and give the nebula a peculiar appearance. — 1996, Philipp Reza Heck

NGC 2359: Zeichnung; 300mm f/4 Newton; © 1996 Stefan Meister

300 mm aperture: The description of the object at 300 mm aperture is approximately the same as at 200 mm. The nebula is brighter with the larger aperture and the contrast of the nebula structures is stronger, so that finer details can be seen. The use of an O-III filter also brings a clear benefit here. — 1996, Stefan Meister

320 mm aperture: The nebula can only be made out faintly without a filter in a slightly hazy sky. However, it is sufficient to identify its position with certainty. With the O-III filter, the shape of the nebula emerges more clearly and you can see the shape of the helmet with the two wings. We couldn't agree on whether it was the helmet of Thor or the one of Asterix. — 5. 2. 2022, Ibergeregg, Stefans 320 mm f/5 Dobsonian, Bernd Nies

400 mm aperture: The nebula can be seen without a filter in the 21 mm Ethos eyepiece (85x). With the O-III filter, its round shape with the two horns comes out well. In the 16 mm Nagler (112x), light and dark areas can be seen in the nebula. One of the horns appears a little brighter. Edi thinks it looks like a Playboy bunny. — Taurus T400 f/4.5 Dobsonian, Hasliberg Reuti, 6. 11. 2021, Bernd Nies

762 mm aperture: The round central part of the Viking helmet NGC 2359 and the extension to an inverted six or to the Playboy bunny symbol can be seen without a nebula filter. With the O-III filter, the second horn of the Viking helmet also becomes clearly visible. The object can be seen most completely with the UHC filter, and a third faint extension can also be seen. — 30" f/3.3 Slipstream Dobsonian, Hasliberg Reuti, 5. 3. 2022, Eduard von Bergen

1000 mm aperture: In poor conditions (thin clouds, ice-cold violent Mistral) NGC 2359 appeared without a filter only as a diffuse, structureless nebula even in the 1m telescope of Puimichel. However, the use of an O-III filter changed everything: A high-contrast, green glowing nebula with an unbelievable wealth of structure was revealed! The view offered to us with a telescope aperture of one meter came very close to photographic images (see AAT image above). There was a bubble that got brighter at the edge and the bright WR star was in the center. The «arms» emanating from the bubble showed an irregular distribution of brightness. — 1996, Philipp Reza Heck

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