The clouds of stellar gas almost jump right out of my screen! It’s a far cry from the view of the nebula that we’re used to, in the bottom image. Phil Plait has a great description of what you’re seeing at Bad Astronomy:
Just off the top of the Hubble picture is the bright star system Sigma Orionis, composed of five incredibly luminous stars. Combined, they shine with the power of over 75,000 Suns! They are responsible for heating and exciting the gas behind the Horsehead.
The Horsehead itself is the site of ongoing star formation. The dense gas and dust inside the nebula is collapsing to form stars, and, at the same time, the edges are being eroded away by the fierce ultraviolet light of Sigma Orionis. The top of the Horsehead is acting a bit like a shield, protecting the material beneath it, which is why it’s taken on that umbrella-like shape. You can see more sculpted pillars of material around the sides, too, like sandbars in a stream.
Well done, Hubble team. Keep up the good work. You’ve inspired millions.
The beautiful flame and horse head nebulae. This was also taken on xmas eve after lots of booze so im very surprised it actually came out ok! Easy to spot in the winter sky, just look to the bottom of Orions belt. One of my first shots with my 400mm lens