Space

April 22, 2013

NASA’s Hubble sees a horsehead of a different color

Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory’s launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.

Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago. The nebula is a favorite target for amateur and professional astronomers. It is shadowy in optical light. It appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies that easily are visible in infrared light.

Hubble has been producing ground-breaking science for two decades. During that time, it has benefited from a slew of upgrades from space shuttle missions, including the 2009 addition of a new imaging workhorse, the high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3 that took the new portrait of the Horsehead.

The nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud, located about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Orion. The cloud also contains other well-known objects such as the Great Orion Nebula (M42), the Flame Nebula, and Barnard’s Loop. It is one of the nearest and most easily photographed regions in which massive stars are being formed.

In the Hubble image, the backlit wisps along the Horsehead’s upper ridge are being illuminated by Sigma Orionis, a young five-star system just out of view. Along the nebula’s top ridge, two fledgling stars peek out from their now-exposed nurseries.

Scientists know a harsh ultraviolet glare from one of these bright stars is slowly evaporating the nebula. Gas clouds surrounding the Horsehead already have dissipated, but the tip of the jutting pillar contains a slightly higher density of hydrogen and helium, laced with dust. This casts a shadow that protects material behind it from being stripped away by intense stellar radiation evaporating the hydrogen cloud, and a pillar structure forms.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc., in Washington, D.C.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin successfully mates NOAA GOES-R satellite modules

Lockheed Martin photograph Lockheed Martin successfully mated together the large system and propulsion modules of the first GOES-R series weather satellite at the companyís Space Systems facilities near Denver, Colo. A team of...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC

NASA Mars spacecraft ready for Sept. 21 orbit insertion

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles. Flight Controllers at Lockheed M...
 
 

Lockheed Martin-built CLIO satellite successfully launched

The U.S. government’s CLIO satellite, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, was successfully launched today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Lift-off occurred at 6:10 p.m., MDT, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. Initial contact with the satellite was confirmed at 9:08 p.m., MDT. The CLIO system is based on innovative...
 

 

ULA launches 60th Mission from Cape Canaveral

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the CLIO mission for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company launched at 8:10†p.m., EDT, Sept. 16 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. “It is an honor to work with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and all of our mission partners to launch this...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, STScI-RCC14-41a

Hubble helps find smallest known galaxy containing supermassive black hole

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, STScI-RCC14-41a Artist’s View of M60-UCD1 Black Hole.   Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground observation have found an unlikely object in an improbable p...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory finds planet that makes star act deceptively old

Image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss A new study from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that a giant exoplanet, WASP-18b, is making the star that it orbits very closely act much older than it actually is. This artist&...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>