Coalsack Nebula

Coalsack Nebula
The Coalsack Nebula
Observation data (Epoch J2000.0)
Type Dark
Right ascension 12h 50m
Declination −62° 30′
Distance (ly) 600 ly
Apparent magnitude (V)
Apparent dimensions (V) 7 × 5 °
Constellation Crux
Physical characteristics
Radius 30–35 ly
Absolute magnitude (V)
Notable features
Other designations C99
See also: Dark nebula, Lists of nebulae
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The Coalsack Dark Nebula (or simply the Coalsack) is the most prominent dark nebula in the skies, easily visible to the naked eye as a dark patch silhouetted against the southern Milky Way. It was known pre-historically in the Southern Hemisphere and was observed by Vicente Yáñez Pinzón in 1499. The Coalsack is located at a distance of approximately 600 light years away from Earth, in the Crux constellation.


General information

The Coalsack Dark Nebula covers nearly 7° by 5° and overlaps somewhat into the neighbour constellations Centaurus and Musca. Although this nebula was known to the people of the Southern Hemisphere in prehistoric times,[1] its first observation was reported by Vicente Yáñez Pinzón in 1499. It was named “il Canopo fosco” (the dark Canopus) by Amerigo Vespucci and was also called “Macula Magellani” (Magellan's Spot) or “Black Magellanic Cloud” in opposition to the Magellanic Clouds.

In 1970, Kalevi Mattila proved the Coalsack is not totally black; it has a very dim glow (10% of the brightness of the surrounding Milky Way) which comes from the reflection of the stars it obscures.

The Coalsack is not present in the New General Catalogue and in fact does not have an identification number (outside of the Caldwell Catalogue, in which it is C99).

A depiction of the "Emu in the sky", which is an Australian Aboriginal constellation consisting of dark clouds rather than of stars. The European constellation on the right is crux or the Southern Cross, and on the left is Scorpius. The head of the emu is the Coalsack.

The Coalsack is important in Australian Aboriginal astronomy, and forms the head of the Emu in the sky in several Aboriginal cultures. Amongst the Wardaman people, it is said to be the head and shoulders of a law-man watching the people to ensure they don't break traditional law. According to a legend reported by W.E. Harney, this being is called Utdjungon and only adherence to the tribal law by surviving tribe members could prevent him from destroying the world with a fiery star.[2]

In Inca astronomy, this nebula was called Yutu, meaning a partridge-like southern bird.[3]

In fiction

The Coalsack is mentioned in the Star Trek: The Original Series episodes "The Immunity Syndrome", "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" by Aurthur C.Clarke

The Coalsack figures prominently in the Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's science fiction novel The Mote in God's Eye and its sequels, The Gripping Hand and Outies[4].


  1. ^ William F. Warren, Paradise found; the cradle of the human race at the North pole; a study of the prehistoric world, pp. 119-120.
  2. ^ Songs of the Songmen, 28-30.
  3. ^ p. 5, The Hundred Greatest Stars, James B. Kaler, New York, Copernicus Books, 2002.
  4. ^

External links

Coordinates: Sky map 12h 52m 19s, −62° 25′ 28″

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Coalsack — [kōl′sak΄] n. Astron. a prominent dark nebula in the Milky Way near the constellation Crux: usually with the: sometimes written Coal Sack …   English World dictionary

  • Coalsack — /kohl sak /, n. Astron. a dark nebula in the southern constellation Crux, whose dust particles obscure light from Milky Way stars behind it. Also, Coal Sack. Also called Southern Coalsack. [1625 35; COAL + SACK1] * * * Dark nebula in the Crux… …   Universalium

  • nebula — nebular, adj. /neb yeuh leuh/, n., pl. nebulae / lee , luy /, nebulas. 1. Astron. a. Also called diffuse nebula. a cloud of interstellar gas and dust. Cf. dark nebula, emission nebula, reflection nebula …   Universalium

  • nebula — Synonyms and related words: Black Magellanic Cloud, Crab Nebula, Gegenschein, bright diffuse nebula, coalsack, counterglow, dark cloud, dark nebula, diffuse nebula, dust cloud, gaseous nebula, nebula of Lyra, nebular hypothesis, nebulosity,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Coalsack — Coal•sack [[t]ˈkoʊlˌsæk[/t]] n. 1) astron. a dark nebula in the Southern Cross 2) astron. Northern Coalsack • Etymology: 1625–35 …   From formal English to slang

  • Coalsack — /kohl sak /, n. Astron. a dark nebula in the southern constellation Crux, whose dust particles obscure light from Milky Way stars behind it. Also, Coal Sack. Also called Southern Coalsack. [1625 35; COAL + SACK1] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Dark nebula — Dark cloud redirects here. For other uses, see Dark Cloud (disambiguation). Star formation …   Wikipedia

  • Northern Coalsack — North′ern Coal′sack n. astron. a dark nebula in the Northern Cross …   From formal English to slang

  • List of dark nebulae — * Coalsack Nebula * Dark Horse Nebula * E Nebula (Barnard 142) * Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) * Pipe Nebula (also see Dark Horse Nebula; includes Barnard 59, 77 and 78) * Snake Nebula (also see Dark Horse Nebula) =Barnard objects= ee also*… …   Wikipedia

  • The Mote in God's Eye —   …   Wikipedia

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