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.

2008 April 8
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Southern Orion: From Belt to Witch
Credit & Copyright: Stéphane Guisard

Explanation: Do you recognize the belt of Orion in this image? The familiar trio of stars, visible to the unaided eye, can be found across the upper left. Otherwise, the southern part of the constellation Orion has taken on a new look in this unusually deep and wide view First note that the lower left belt star, Alnitak, is the easternmost star in Orion's belt. Left of Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Directly below Alnitak, a close inspection will reveal the Horsehead Nebula. Farther right and below is the Orion Nebula, M42, itself visible to the unaided eye. The brightest star in the frame, near the bottom right, is Rigel. A bright blue star, Rigel illuminates the ominously shaped dust patch known as the Witch Head Nebula, visible as the blue reflection nebula near the lower right corner. Finally, appearing as a vast red ring and encompassing the entire region, is Barnard's Loop. Humans could see this entire menagerie, unaided, were their eyes about 10,000 times more sensitive.

Tomorrow's picture: magellanic spiral

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