Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick

Astro-Porn of the Day: Horsehead Nebula Photo of Amazingness

The Horsehead Nebula is an icon in astronomy, yet even icons can be re-imagined with modern digital processing and infrared photography. Check out this beautiful new photo, just released today:

Click the image to see the Hubble Heritage page where amateur astronomers and photo-processing experts the world over created new Horsehead Nebula images.

In this new photo, it's less clear why it's called the Horsehead Nebula (see the black-and-white one below for a more-iconic shot). Images of this shadowy nebula have graced astronomy publications forever. This new Hubble-and-VISTA photo uses infrared wavelengths to showcase the horse's head and neck in ghostly beauty. Radiation pressure from nearby stars shapes the silhouette of gas and dust, carving it into the shape you see here. The horse's head spans about a parsec (three light-years), while the overall sea of star-forming gas and dust stretches across hundreds of light-years of space (click for a broad-vista photo) in the constellation Orion, and includes the Great Orion Nebula.

To give you an idea of what people have been used to seeing in telescopes without infrared resolution, here's another lovely photo taken by astronomer Terry Hancock over a six-hour exposure using a Hydrogen-Alpha filter with his 12" telescope:

Click the image to see Hancock's Flickr page.

Still gorgeous, and of a quality only major observatories could have produced just a decade or two ago.

Tags: astronomy

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