The NGC 7000 and IC 5070 region is a fascinating area of space containing two remarkable nebulae, the North American Nebula (NGC 7000) and the Pelican Nebula (IC 5070).
NGC 7000, or the North American Nebula, is a luminous emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus, named for its striking resemblance to the North American continent. Its most striking feature is a dark region that resembles the Gulf of Mexico.
Close to the North American Nebula is IC 5070, also known as the Pelican Nebula. This nebula, which lies just 'east' of NGC 7000 (in the sky), takes its name from its resemblance to a pelican. Like NGC 7000, IC 5070 is an emission nebula and an area of active star formation.
Both nebulae are part of the same interstellar cloud of ionised hydrogen (H II region). Their shapes are determined by the interaction between ionising radiation from hot young stars, the surrounding interstellar gas and the dark dust clouds within the nebulae. This creates the intricate patterns of light and dark that give the nebulae their distinctive appearance.
Although they are adjacent and part of the same cloud complex, the North America and Pelican Nebulae are often photographed separately because of their large size. Together they cover an area more than four times the size of the full moon in the sky.
In terms of distance, the nebulae are about 1,500 to 1,800 light-years from us. This region of the sky is a favourite target for astronomers and astrophotographers, as the size of the nebulae, their distinctive shapes and vivid colours (especially in long exposures) give us breathtaking views of these cosmic landscapes.