A frighteningly shaped reflection nebula, this cosmic crone is about 800 light-years away though. Its malevolent visage seems to glare toward nearby bright star Rigel in Orion, just off the right edge of this frame. More formally known as IC 2118, the interstellar cloud of dust and gas is nearly 70 light-years across, its dust grains reflecting Rigel’s starlight. In this composite portrait, the nebula’s color is caused not only by the star’s intense bluish light but because the dust grains scatter blue light more efficiently than red. The same physical process causes Earth’s daytime sky to appear blue, although the scatterers in planet Earth’s atmosphere are molecules of nitrogen and oxygen

A 212-Hour Exposure of the Orion Constellation


Barnard’s Loop (red arcing filament in the middle), Lambda Orionis (red nebula, top), Rosette Nebula (red and white, upper left), Betelgeuse (orange star, top center), Rigel (blue star, bottom right), and others!

Click here for the same image but with all features labeled!

‘Witch head’ brews baby stars

A witch appears to be screaming out into space in this new image from NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The infrared portrait shows the Witch Head nebula, named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch. Astronomers say the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive stars. Dust in the cloud is being hit with starlight, causing it to glow with infrared light, which was picked up by WISE’s detectors. The Witch Head nebula is estimated to be hundreds of light-years away in the Orion constellation, just off the famous hunter’s knee.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech