Close Up of the Horsehead Nebula in Orion
There probably isn’t a nebula more recognizable than the Horsehead Nebula. Located in the Constellation Orion and part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, this famous nebula has been capturing the imagination of astronomers for years. Let’s take a close up look at this nebula.
The Horsehead Nebula is also known as Barnard 33. It was discovered in 1888 by Williamenia Fleming who worked for Professor Edward Charles Pickering. Pickering was the Director of the Harvard Observatory. Here’s an interesting fact – Williamenia was originally hired by Pickering as a maid! She got so involved in his work and in astronomy that she was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society of London in 1906! How’s that for a career change?
But I digress….
You can find the Horsehead Nebula in the constellation Orion. It is located just to the south of the star Alnitak, which is the star that is farthest west on Orion’s belt. What makes this nebula so cool is the fact that it is a very dense dark cloud of dust and gas that is in front of a pink wall of ionized hydrogen that has been lit up by the star Sigma Orionis.
I want you to take a close look at the image on the top of this post. Check out the detail of this nebula. Notice the bright orange glow near the top of the horse head. Could this be a new star emerging from the dark depths of this dense cloud of dust? Notice the swirls of the dust that seem to be undulating around objects we can’t see embedded in the nebula.
There are many treasures within the Orion Nebula and the Horsehead Nebula is just one of them. Take the time to check out this fantastic stellar canvas. It’s worth a close up look.
Image Credit: NASA, NOAO, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)