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January 2003

The Horsehead Nebula

This gem is tucked into the belt of Orion, just above his sword. The bright glow of gas is shown with two colorations - the panel at left represents the visual appearance of the nebula, while the panel on the right isolates the glow of hydrogen gas. Of course, this object is visible to the eye only with a very large telescope, but the sensitive imaging techniques available at Fick Observatory produce these striking images in just a few minutes.

A cloud of dust that lies between us and the bright background nebula obscures a part of it, bearing the uncanny resemblance to the head of a horse. The dusty material in the head of the horse will eventually collapse to form new stars and planetary systems.

The dark material lies at a distance of approximately 1200 light years from Earth.