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 October 7
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 the highest resolution version available.
The Colorful Horsehead Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, J.-C. Cuillandre (CFHT), Coelum

Explanation: While drifting through the cosmos, a magnificent interstellar dust cloud became sculpted by stellar winds and radiation to assume a recognizable shape. Fittingly named the Horsehead Nebula, it is embedded in the vast and complex Orion Nebula. The dark molecular cloud, roughly 1,500 light years distant, is cataloged as Barnard 33 and is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the bright emission nebula IC 434. The bright blue reflection nebula NGC 2023 is visible on the lower left. The prominent horse head portion of the nebula is really just part of a larger cloud of dust which can be seen extending toward the bottom of the picture. A potentially rewarding but difficult object to view with a small telescope, this gorgeous representative-color image was taken by the large 3.6-m Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, USA.

Tomorrow's picture: Galaxy Hat

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