Herschel's View of Orion B

Nhsc_nhsc2017-002b_500

nhsc_nhsc2017-002b September 18th, 2017

Credit: ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Acknowledgement: R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech)

Pictured in this image by ESA's Herschel Space Observatory is the Orion B molecular cloud, a vast star-forming complex in the constellation Orion, the Hunter. Invisible to our eyes, these interstellar clouds are located near Alnitak, one of the stars in Orion's Belt.

At about 1300 light-years from us, Orion B is one of the closest regions of star formation, where new stars take shape from billowing clouds of gas.

Observing the sky at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths from 2009 to 2013, Herschel could catch the faint glow of dust grains interspersed in these clouds. Astronomers can use this glow to trace the otherwise dark gas where star formation unfolds.

The densest portions of the cloud, where many protostars and newborn stars are found, stand out as the brightest regions in the image.

The large, bright region in the top right is the Flame Nebula, also known as NGC 2024. This emission nebula is also visible in optical observations due to light from nearby newborn stars that has energised its gas and made it shine. The nebula was originally discovered in the late 18th century by William Herschel, the astronomer after whom the Herschel Space Observatory is named.

The cloud seems to come to an abrupt end to the right of the Flame Nebula, where a sharp edge indicates that the material is being compressed by powerful winds blowing from clusters of massive stars located beyond the field of this image.

Protruding from this edge, and visible in this image as a small lump, is the iconic Horsehead Nebula. A thick pillar of interstellar material with a shape resembling an equine head, this nebula was first identified by astronomer Williamina Fleming in the 1880s. She spotted this dark nebula in photographic observations that were taken at optical wavelengths, where it appeared as a dark silhouette because of the obscuring effect of the dust interspersed in the gas.

Darker regions in the central and lower left parts of the image correspond to colder, less dense portions of the cloud where star formation is not as active. Nestled within the tangle of gas and dust, the two bright regions at the centre of the image are NGC 2071 and NGC 2068, two reflection nebulae, which reflect starlight and also shine brightly at visible wavelengths.

This three-colour image combines Herschel observations at 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red), and spans 8.6 by 6.2; north is to the left and east is down.

Image Source: /image/nhsc/nhsc2017-002b

Curator: NASA Herschel Science Center, Pasadena, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Public Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Orion B

Distance

Universescale1
1,300 light years
Nhsc_nhsc2017-002b_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 5h 47m 41.9s
DEC = 0° 6’ 55.7”
Orientation
North is 90.0° CCW
Field of View
8.6 x 6.2 degrees
Constellation
Orion
Nhsc_nhsc2017-002b_1280
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ID
nhsc2017-002b
Subject Category
Subject Name
Orion B
Credits
ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO; Acknowledgement: R. Hurt (JPL-Caltech)
Lightyears
1,300
Redshift
Reference Url
/image/nhsc/nhsc2017-002b
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Instrument
Color Assignment
Band
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
2000.0
Reference Value
86.92460376003, 0.11546698917
Reference Dimension
9635.00, 6936.00
Reference Pixel
4817.60069650292, 3472.57724871510
Scale
-0.00088826924, 0.00088826924
Rotation
89.95378805206
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
World Coordinate System resolved using PinpointWCS 0.9.2 revision 218+ by the Chandra X-ray Center
Creator (Curator)
NASA Herschel Science Center
URL
http://www.herschel.caltech.edu/
Name
Email
Telephone
Address
1200 E. California Blvd.
City
Pasadena
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
91125
Country
USA
Rights
Public Domain
Publisher
NASA Herschel Science Center
Publisher ID
nhsc
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/nhsc/nhsc2017-002b
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2017-09-21T00:03:11Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

 

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Universescalefull
1,300 light years