Location of Photo:
Mayhill, NM USA remotely from La Jolla, CA USA
Date/Time of photo:
January 14, 2008 at 10 pm MST
150 mm Takahashi color imaging platform via iTelescope.net
This dark nebula is located just to the south of the star Alnitak, which is farthest east on Orion's Belt, and is part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The nebula was first recorded in 1888 by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming on a photographic plate taken at the Harvard College Observatory (read about the women astronomers at Harvard at the turn of the last century: https://apps.carleton.edu/…/cindystud…/1997sp/women/harvard/). The Horsehead Nebula is approximately 1500 light years from Earth. It is one of the most identifiable nebulae because of the shape of its swirling cloud of dark dust and gases, which bears some resemblance to a horse's head. The dark cloud of dust and gas is a region where star formation is taking place. This stellar nursery can contain over 100 known kinds of organic and inorganic gases as well as dust. The red or pinkish glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. Magnetic fields channel the gases leaving the nebula in streams, shown as streaks in the background glow. The darkness of the Horsehead itself is caused by thick dust blocking the light of stars behind it.