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 June 6
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Cone Nebula Infrared Close-Up
Credit: NICMOS Group (STScI, ESA), NICMOS Science Team (Univ. Arizona), NASA

Explanation: After astronauts repaired NICMOS - the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer - during the latest Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, astronomers were quick to turn the sophisticated instrument on the photogenic stellar nursery known as the Cone Nebula. This remarkable NICMOS close-up of the Cone Nebula dramatically confirms that the Hubble's infrared vision has been restored. Gas and dust clouds at the blunted tip of the cone-shaped star-forming region are seen here in false-color covering an area about half a light-year across. Toward the left hand side of the picture, the four bright stars with diffraction spikes are also present in visible light images and are in front of the Cone Nebula, itself 2,500 light-years away. But the fainter stars to their right are embedded in or behind the nebula's obscuring dust clouds and are revealed only in this penetrating infrared view.

Tomorrow's picture: infant solar system

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.