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.

2006 August 8
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 the highest resolution version available.

Horse Head Shaped Reflection Nebula IC 4592
Credit & Copyright: Jim Misti and Steve Mazlin, (acquisition), Robert Gendler (processing)

Explanation: Do you see the horse's head? What you are seeing is not the famous Horsehead nebula toward Orion but rather a fainter nebula that only takes on a familiar form with deeper imaging. The main part of the above imaged molecular cloud complex is a reflection nebula cataloged as IC 4592. Reflection nebulas are actually made up of very fine dust that normally appears dark but can look quite blue when reflecting the light of energetic nearby stars. In this case, the source of much of the reflected light is a star at the eye of the horse. That star is part of Nu Scorpii, one of the brighter star systems toward the constellation of Scorpius. A second reflection nebula dubbed IC 4601 is visible surrounding two stars on the far right.

Tomorrow's picture: cloudy morning

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