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.

2003 January 21
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The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion
Credit & Copyright: Daniel Verschatse (Antilhue Obs.)

Explanation: In the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex, several bright blue nebulas are particularly apparent. Pictured above are two of the most prominent reflection nebulas - dust clouds lit by the reflecting light of bright embedded stars. The more famous nebula is M78, on the upper right, cataloged over 200 years ago. On the lower left is the lesser known NGC 2071. Astronomers continue to study these reflection nebulas to better understand how interior stars form. The Orion complex lies about 1500 light-years distant, contains the Orion and Horsehead nebulas, and covers much of the constellation of Orion.

Tomorrow's picture: Wild Duck

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