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.


 
 

 

Northrop Grumman hand held precision targeting device completes successful developmental test

A new hand held targeting system developed by Northrop Grumman that will enable soldiers to engage targets with precision munitions while providing digital connectivity to related military units has successfully completed developmental testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The evaluation of the company’s Hand Held Precision Targeting Device, or HHPTD, was conducted...
 
 
Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

Educating future workers

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds Antelope Valley College physics professor Christos Valiotis and assistant headmaster at the Palmdale Aerospace Academy, Matthew Winheim, speak at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade Luncheon. The ...
 
 
NASA photograph by Dimitri Gerondidakis

NASA’s Orion spacecraft, rocket move closer to first flight

NASA photograph by Dimitri Gerondidakis The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket that will send NASA’s Orion spacecraft on its first flight test in December was moved to its vertical launch position Oct. 1 at Space La...
 

 

China’s first New-Generation Boeing Jetliner B747-8 delivered to Air China

In the evening of Sept. 29 29 in Seattle, Beijing time, Air China and Boeing held a grand aircraft delivery ceremony in Seattle, the United States, marking the official delivery of China’s first B747-8 to Air China. The type is a member of the latest generation B747 family. It will arrive at Beijing Capital International...
 
 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich

Two NASA Armstrong technologies recognized by tech transfer consortium

NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich NASA Armstrong researchers Mike Dandachy, Ricardo Arteaga and Duc Tran (from left) were honored for their technology development work on the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, or ADS-B, S...
 
 

Events – October 2014

Oct. 3 – Lecture: The Use of In Situ Analytical Technology and Impactite Dating in Planetary Field Geology, Houston, Texas   Oct. 3 – Lecture: Space at 100 – The Next 50 Years in the Human and Robotic Exploration of the Solar System, Bath, United Kingdom   Oct. 5-7 – International Workshop on Double Beta...
 




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>