SUBMISSION: Imagine, if you will, standing with your toes in the sand of a lakeshore on a world somewhere in Orion. A cool breeze runs its fingers through your hair. The Horsehead and Flame nebulae loom large in the night sky. Can’t picture it? Then check out the above piece, which splices together a landscape photograph taken by Marc Hoeksema with astrophotography from Terry Hancock.
Having trouble keeping track of everything in these wide-field images? Just reference this handy guide or explore the area on wikisky. We’ll be posting about each object in the rogues’ gallery of Horsehead neighbors in the days to come. And don’t miss the larger, unaltered version of the background image, which was acquired by David Plesko and processed by Warren Keller.
Here’s the Horsehead on it’s side, in an image (from this paper) that traces radio waves emitted by molecules of carbon monoxide in the nebula. The colors correspond to motion; in this case, color shows the speed with which different parts of the Horsehead structure are moving away from the Earth. Amazingly, these data suggest that the “neck” and “head” are rotating in our direction, as if the nebula was swiveling to get a better look at us.
SUBMISSION: Hilmi Al-Kindy sent us this image with a note:
"This image was taken bang in the middle of the commercial area in Qurm, Muscat, Oman. I took this image from the roof of my house, surrounded by streetlights, a highway and a soccer stadium. I consider this image a symbol of my defiance to light pollution."
You hear that, light pollution? The gauntlet has been thrown.
SUBMISSION: Sean Walker shared this photograph and a story of the first time he saw the Horsehead:
”While I have shot it a few times throughout my 2-decades of astrophotography, the first time I saw the enigmatic nebula without a camera was while observing at the Winter Star Party in 2007. I happened upon someone observing with a big Newtonian telescope (Dobsonian mounted), and asked what he was observing. He responded “nothing- I’ve been trying to find the Horsehead Nebula for the last 30 minutes with no luck!” I offered my services, and immediately I realized he was in the right place, but looking “through” the nebula with too high magnification. As soon as we switched to a low-powered eyepiece, the familiar (though mirror-reversed) silhouette emerged from the slight glow of surrounding nebulosity. Score!”
The Horsehead, substantive in all the optical images we’ve been looking at, is ghostly in this near-infrared picture from the Infrared Survey Facility telescope in South Africa. Young stars form in the sheltered, nourishing environs of nebulae like fish spawn in marshes. While many of the stars in Horsehead images are behind or in front of the nebulae itself, the figure (from this paper) shows us newborn stars inside the structure. Circles indicate “bona fide” young stellar objects, while diamonds identify candidates.