Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, a magnificent interstellar dust cloud by chance has assumed the shape of a horse. Fittingly named the Horsehead Nebula, light from it takes about 1,500 light-years to reach us.
It is embedded in the vast Orion cloud complex within the Orion constellation. Although the constellation is easily visible in the evening sky towards the south, it is very difficult to see the Horsehead Nebula through the telescope, as a large telescope and dark skies are required.
About five light-years “tall”, the dark cloud is visible only because its obscuring dust is silhouetted against the glowing red emission nebula IC 434 in the background.
The gigantic gas clouds making up the Horsehead Nebula have been captured excellently by Leonard Ellul-Mercer in this colour image shot by the skilful use of astronomical cameras through his telescope.
Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first…
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