Stunning new view from ESA’s Herschel space observatory of the iconic Horsehead Nebula in the context of its surroundings. The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red), and covers 4.5x1.5 degrees. The image is oriented with northeast towards the left of the image and southwest towards the right.
The Horsehead Nebula resides in the constellation Orion, about 1300 light-years away, and is part of the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex. The Horsehead appears to rise above the surrounding gas and dust in the far right-hand side of this scene, and points towards the bright Flame Nebula. Intense radiation streaming away from newborn stars heats up the surrounding dust and gas, making it shine brightly to Herschel’s infrared-sensitive eyes (shown in pink and white in this image).
To the left, the panoramic view also covers two other prominent sites where massive stars are forming, NGC 2068 and NGC 2071.
Extensive networks of cool gas and dust weave throughout the scene in the form of red and yellow filaments, some of which may host newly forming low-mass stars.