Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2010 December 25
Explanation: Bright stars, clouds of dust and glowing nebulae decorate this cosmic scene, a skyscape just north of Orion's belt. Close to the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, the wide field view spans about 5.5 degrees. Striking bluish M78, a reflection nebula, is at the left. M78's tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars. In colourful contrast, the red sash of glowing hydrogen gas sweeping through the centre is part of the region's faint but extensive emission nebula known as Barnard's Loop. At right, a dark dust cloud forms a prominent silhouette catalogued as LDN 1622. While M78 and the complex Barnard's Loop are some 1,500 light-years away, LDN 1622 is likely to be much closer, only about 500 light-years distant from our fair planet Earth.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.