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Months ago I downloaded this glorious image of the Pacman Nebula (NGC 281) in Cassiopeia. I have not been able to identify the source of the image (e.g., Hubble, James Webb Space Telescope, etc.) and other information such as the date of the exposure, what cameras were used, and whether it is in the public domain or copyright protected. I've poked around using Google Lens and with web searches to find this information but so far without success. I trust that the knowledgeable folks here might help. Thank you. wakkawakkawakka

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Not JWST, as this image appears (uncredited) on a tweet from 2015. It might be a version of sciencephoto.com/media/536069/view/… with the contrast and saturation turned way up. (That is from the West Mountain Observatory, Utah) $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Nov 5, 2023 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesK While I agree someone turned the saturation up to 11, I don't think this is the same as the image you linked. For one thing, this has diffraction spikes on some stars that don't exist on the one you linked. Which also tells you it's not JWST because the diffraction spike pattern doesn't match JWST. $\endgroup$
    – zephyr
    Nov 6, 2023 at 20:05

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It's probably going to be impossible to track the provenance of this image, but my best guess is that this is from the Nov 28, 2014 Astronomy Picture of the Day (reproduced below).

NGC 281 from APOD

I think someone took that picture and messed with the colors and cropped it. If I crank up the saturation and contrast on that picture, I can get one that matches your picture pretty well.

NGC 281 w/ adjustments to match OP's picture

If I'm correct about my attribution, this is a copyrighted image from amateur astrophotographer Martin Pugh.


Just a small note, in case I'm wrong. There are two important elements to this that can offer some small clues as to the original image.

First are the diffraction spikes. Right away we can say this is not JWST given that there are four diffraction spikes and JWST has 6. Whatever telescope took this would need to produce the observed diffraction spikes. The image I found seems to match the diffraction spike shape, count, and orientation pretty well.

Second are the gas clouds. This image was taken with multiple filters and the various clouds you see are indications of the filters used. Something like an X-ray telescope such as Chandra is likely not the culprit because you'd be seeing a different view of the clouds. I'm fairly certain you're looking for something taken at or nor the visible band. The image I found was taken in several filters at or near the visible band.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow, James K and zephyr, you both are correct regarding cranking up the saturation and contrast. I pulled your original image, zephyr, into Photoshop and in about one minute had something very similar to the image in my question post, simply by manipulating the saturation and contrast. Thanks - now I can be a sleuth, too. $\endgroup$
    – WPWPWP
    Nov 11, 2023 at 4:51

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