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.

2010 October 5
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Horsehead and Orion Nebulas
Credit & Copyright: Maurice Toet, Steve Loughran, Darren Jehan & Tim Jardine

Explanation: The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right. Immediately to its left is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region.

Tomorrow's picture: aurora alaska

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