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.

2002 February 11
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Reflection Nebula M78
Credit & Copyright: S. Lee, C. Tinney, & D. Malin, AAO

Explanation: An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78, one of the brightest reflection nebula on the sky. M78 is visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of Orion. The dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. The same type of scattering that colors the daytime sky further enhances the blue color. M78 is about five light-years across. M78 appears above only as it was 1600 years ago, however, because that is how long it takes light to go from there to here. M78 belongs to the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex that contains the Great Nebula in Orion and the Horsehead Nebula.

Tomorrow's picture: Methane Earth

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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