Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 December 29
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

The Dark Horsehead Nebula
Credit: Arne Henden (US Naval Observatory, Flagstaff)
Image Processed by Al Kelly

Explanation: While drifting through the cosmos this magnificent interstellar dust cloud, sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, has chanced to assume a recognizable shape. Fittingly named The Horsehead Nebula it is embedded in the immense complex of star forming gas and dust surrounding the Orion Nebula some 1,500 light-years distant. The dark nebula is cataloged as Barnard 33 and is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the bright emission nebulae which lie behind it. In fact, the prominent horse head portion of the nebula is really just part of a larger cloud of dust which can be seen extending off the bottom of the picture. A potentially rewarding but difficult object to view with a small instrument, this gorgeous color image is a composite of exposures made with a digital camera and astronomical BVR filters using a 1-meter diameter telescope.

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