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.

2005 January 6
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UKIRT: Aloha Orion
Credit: Joint Astronomy Centre; image processing by C. Davis, W. Varricatt

Explanation: At the edge of a dense molecular cloud, filaments of gas, cosmic dust, and a multitude of young stars beckon in this penetrating image of the Orion Nebula. Alluring structures in the well-known star forming region are revealed here in infrared light as viewed by a new Hawaiian eye - WFCAM - a powerful wide field camera commissioned at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Mauna Kea. Only a fraction of WFCAM's full field, this picture covers about 11 light-years at the 1,500 light-year distance of the nebula. In the image, otherwise invisible infrared light has been mapped into visible colors. Red represents narrow-band infrared emission from hydrogen molecules at a wavelength of 2.12 microns, green is emission at 2.2 microns, and blue is emission at 1.25 microns. Visible light has a wavelength of about 0.5 microns (micrometers).

Tomorrow's picture: S for Venus

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