Artist notes:

How many of these massive banks of gas and dust roam our galaxy? If it weren't for the massive blue star at the right of this photo we would not know that this apparition graced our night sky. The texture of the gas and dust cloud is what drew me to spend many cold nights gathering these photons. I like the dark patch of dust at the center of the red expanse. What hides behind it? 

Technical details:

Photons captured in Simpson, North Carolina, in December 2014.  The image is 4 stitched panels collected over a total of 11.2 hours exposure time.

This emission nebula is the result of the very energetic star Menkib exciting intersteller hydrogen.  Menkib is one of the hottest most massive stars visible to the naked eye with a luminosity of 330,000 suns. The nebula is named for the state it resembles and is 1000 light years away and a 100 light years long. It takes up 2.5 degrees in the night sky   

California Nebula