IC405 known as the Flaming Star Nebula taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last September 29, 2018 using Vixen ED115S telescope and ZWO1600MC-cool CMOS camera mounted on Skywatcher EQ6. Stacked and post-processed in Pixinsight. (Image Credit: Al Sadeem Astronomy)


The Flaming Star Nebula (designated as IC405, SH2-229, Caldwell 31) is a diffuse emission/reflection nebula, about 5 light years diameter, located about 1500 light-years away from Earth in the constellation Auriga (the charioteer). It was first discovered in 1892 by an anonymous person. It was also observed by MaxWolf in 1903, described it as “”a burning body from which several enormous curved flames seem to break out like gigantic prominences”.

This nebula mainly consists of the blue O-type main sequence star AE Aurigae, about 17 times the mass of the Sun and 30,000 brighter, and other bright stars in the star NGC 1893 in which their intense light ionizes its surrounding stellar dust and gases, mainly of hydrogen and traces of carbon, providing its distinct reddish glow.

From numerous observations and simulations, astronomers thought of AE Aurigae being a “runaway star” when they traced its motion back to a spot in the Orion Nebula. Theories suggest that the star was flung away by strong gravitational interaction of either two multiple star systems or a supernova within the nebula about two million years ago. From that point on, it passes through a cold cloud of interstellar gas by chance, illuminating it in the process until after 20,000 years as the star travels quickly. Other stars thought of similar circumstance were µ Columbae and 53 Arietis.

With an apparent magnitude +6.0, it can be easily seen through small telescopes and binoculars under extremely clear, dark, moonless night sky. Its bright stars can be easily resolved through visual observation but long-exposure photography is essential to reveal its surrounding nebulosity. This nebula is situated few degrees north of the emission nebula IC410 (The Tadpoles), the open clusters M38 and M36, and Iota Aurigae.


Location of the Flaming Star Nebula in the constellation Auriga (Image Credit: Stellarium)


Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405, SH 2-229, Caldwell 31) in Auriga (2011, April 02). Constellation Guide Constellations: A Guide to the Night Sky. Retrieved from

Tóth, G. (2014, November 20). The Flaming Star Nebula – IC 405. Retrieved from

Ventrudo, B. (2015, April 14). The Flaming Star Nebula.  Cosmic Pursuits. Retrieved from

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, March 15). IC 405. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from