There are new secrets within the Horsehead Nebula


The most iconic “dark nebula” of all lights up under JWST’s infrared gaze.
Key Takeaways Located 1300 light-years away, the Horsehead Nebula is an iconic astronomical sight that’s delighted astronomers for centuries.
But only recently have we looked at it with infrared, rather than merely visible, light, illuminating many of its dusty, internal secrets.
The Horsehead Nebula is an iconic astronomical sight.
But the Horsehead is a different beast: a dark nebula.
Their silhouettes create intricate “dark nebulae” against the illuminated backdrop.
With internal and external heating, infrared eyes reveal intricate features within the Horsehead Nebula.
Individual stars appear to be forming inside the nebula, poking through the neutral gas in infrared light.


Infrared light from JWST illuminates the most famous “dark nebula” of all. This is what was just found within.

Important lessons learned.

The Horsehead Nebula, a famous celestial sight that is 1300 light-years away, has fascinated astronomers for centuries.

But it hasn’t been until recently that we’ve examined it using infrared light instead of just visible light, which has revealed many of its dusty, interior secrets.

We are learning more about this object than most astronomers had anticipated even from JWST’s initial NIRCam and MIRI views of it. Here is what we have so far disclosed.

An iconic image in astronomy is the Horsehead Nebula.

The majority of nebulae are bright, glowing blue or red.

Atoms of hydrogen are ionized by energetic light, and when electrons recombine, they produce red “emission” nebulae.

Bright starlight is also reflected by neutral atoms, resulting in bluish “reflection” nebulae.

The Horsehead, however, is a distinct species of nebula—it is dark.

The background light is obscured by cool gas clouds that are present in the foreground of stars and star-forming areas.

Against the glowing background, their shadows produce elaborate “dark nebulae.”.

Internal and external heating causes the Horsehead Nebula’s complex features to be visible to infrared telescopes.

This neutral gas is visible in Hubble, Euclid, and JWST’s NIRCam images.

At longer, mid-infrared wavelengths, different features show up in the MIRI instrument on JWST.

But inside, a lot of new secrets are revealed by JWST’s high-resolution equipment.

The quantity of background galaxies is the same close to the Horsehead boundary as it is farther away.

Peeking through the neutral gas in infrared light, individual stars seem to be forming inside the nebula.

In NIRCam imagery, diffraction spikes can be used to identify certain new stars.

On the other hand, other “lights” that are visible inside match extremely bright background galaxies.

Supermassive black holes are among them. One could be in active states.

Infrared views of the Horsehead show its internal mechanisms at a distance of only 1300 light-years.

With only 200 words, pictures, and other visuals, Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical tale.


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