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Naming Nebulae

Recommended for: Ages 8 and up

Badges: Artist in Space, Pictures in the Sky, Maryland Skies


A nebula is a giant cloud of dust and gas in space. More than one nebula are called nebulae. In this activity, you will explore nebulae and make your own!


You Will Need 

  • A jar with a secure lid 

  • Water

  • Tempera paint 

  • Cotton balls 

  • A long spoon 

  • Glitter


How does a nebula form?

What does a nebula look like?

How can we see nebulae?

How do nebulae get their names?


“The Persian astronomer, Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, mentioned a true nebula for the first time in his book, Book of Fixed Stars (964). He said that there was a "little cloud" near the Andromeda galaxy.” Learn more about Nebulae here: Nebula Facts for Kids

According to NASA, some nebulae come from the gas and dust thrown out by the explosion of a dying star while others are regions where new stars are beginning to form. Astronomers use very powerful telescopes to take pictures of faraway nebulae. Space telescopes such as NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and Hubble Space Telescope have captured many images of faraway nebulae.


Take an up-close look at a nebula. Fly through the Orion Nebula!


Nebulae are often given a common name that’s linked to how they look. Many nebulae have been named after animals. Here are some examples:


The Crab nebula photographed by Hubble. Probably the most famous of all supernova remnants


The Horsehead Nebula, an example of a dark nebula.


The Cat's Eye Nebula, an example of a planetary nebula.

Explore more nebulae that the Hubble Telescope has captured. Can you guess their names?


Make your own nebula at home! Check out this video by PBS KIDS that shows you how to make your own nebula:

Look closely at your nebulae. What does it remind you of? Name your nebulae. 


Want to complete this task towards collecting a Wondernaut badge? Name the Nebula that you created and share this along with a photo of your Nebula with the Wondernauts Community.

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