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Horsehead Nebula

Combination of several exposures of the Horsehead Nebula produced this color picture

This color picture of the Horsehead Nebula was was made by combining several exposures taken in the early morning hours of Dec. 29, 1994, using the 0.9 meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). Observing conditions were not ideal so only a select few of the original observations were used. Each frame was carefully cleaned, then aligned and combined by computer to create this (approximately) true color picture.

Located about 1600 light years from the Earth, the Horsehead Nebula was first recorded in 1888 on a photographic plate taken at the Harvard College Observatory. It's resemblance to the profile of a horse head and neck has made it one of the most familiar astronomical objects. Really, it's an extremely dense cloud projecting in front of ionized gas, which provides the pink glow revealed in the picture.

KPNO is located on Kitt Peak, a 2,089-meter mountain 90 kilometers southwest of Tucson, Ariz. KPNO includes the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope, the 4-meter Mayall Telescope and a 2.1-meter general-purpose reflector. Numerous other telescopes operated by universities or private consortia are also tenants on Kitt Peak. A full complement of state-of-the-art spectroscopic and imaging instrumentation is available for use on these telescopes. KPNO is one of several observatories that make up the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (NOAO), a national center for research in ground-based optical and infrared astronomy, supported by the National Science Foundation. (Date of Image: 1994)

Credit: Nigel Sharp, NOAO; Image copyright AURA Inc./NOAO

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