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The Firework Nebula: The Story Behind the Codename

🔭 Following our tradition—and to celebrate the integration of Firecracker as a new supported hypervisor/VMM—the new OpenNebula 5.12 has been codenamed after the Firework Nebula. That’s why we have invited astrophysicist Jordi Burguet-Castell to write a guest post telling us more about this spectacular astronomical object.



Big fireworks up in the sky! The beautiful Firework Nebula got this particular name because it actually looks like pyrotechnics when seen through a telescope. This nebula, a huge cloud of material expelled from a star, resulted from an explosion that happened about a hundred years ago: Nova Persei 1901, named after the year and the constellation where it was seen. But—you might be wondering—what exactly is a nova?

A nova is also some kind of spectacular fireworks in the sky. The name nova comes from new in Latin—a new star that appears in the sky and fades away within days. That’s pretty much all that people could say about them before we invented telescopes. Today we know that a nova is in fact a huge explosion, one that results when a star steals material from a companion star next to it.

1500 light-years away from Earth, at the constellation of Perseus, there are a couple of stars that happen to be—relatively speaking—quite close to each other. One of them is a white dwarf, a kind of star that is very hot (incandescent white) and very small (with a mass as big as the Sun but with a size similar to that of the Earth, thus being referred to as a dwarf). This white dwarf steals matter from its companion, a more normal star, forming around it what we call an accretion disk. The falling matter gets extremely hot, reaching the millions of degrees, and at some point its hydrogen starts to go through nuclear fusion, triggering a thermonuclear runaway in it! This produces an explosive shock wave and an expanding shell.

The result of these gigantic fireworks is a nova remnant, made up of the material left behind by the sudden explosive fusion. For the naked eye, it looks like a region in the sky with a star that seems a bit ‘cloudy’. And that’s precisely the term that we still use nowadays, cloud, again making use of the Latin word for it: nebula.

OpenNebula uses the same word to talk about its computing platform for managing heterogeneous distributed infrastructures—it’s cloud computing! To celebrate the integration of the Firecracker virtualization technology, OpenNebula 5.12 has been named after the Firework Nebula, the spectacular remnant that the fireworks of Nova Persei 1901 left behind. And that’s the story behind the cool codename that the OpenNebula Team has chosen for this new version! 🚀

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Jordi Burguet-Castell

Astrophysicist

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