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Clearest Photos Ever Of Horsehead Nebula 139

angkor writes "A new composite image created from high-res photographs. Wow, just wow. You can see it at SpaceFlightNow."
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Clearest Photos Ever Of Horsehead Nebula

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  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:56AM (#2909637)
    You can almost make out the words:

    Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.
  • by edgrale ( 216858 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @11:58AM (#2909641)
    Can be found here, You can find the link there to the images, or you can use this direct link: -02-02.html Have fun!
  • It can be seen with almost any telescope. It's near the second star in Orion's Sword. Preaty neat. I wonder how long the exposure was on those pictures.
    • I doubt that you can see in your 60mm more than a vague hint of the nebula. It's usually a bitch to photograph with high contrast.

      About the exposure time, I'm sure that it wasn't too long. The VLT is composed of 4 telescopes, each with a 8.2 meters mirror. Most likely, only one of them was used, but even in this case, a few minutes would be enough to saturate the CCD :-)
    • I tried to see it with a 10" f/5.5 reflector at a good dark site near Tucson, and only got vague hints that there was anything there. But I suspect that my visual dark sensitivity isn't as good as many. Your milage may vary.
    • I thought that was the Great Nebula in Orion's belt? I never knew it was also known as the Horse Head nebula. Cool.

      I still break out the old 4 1/4 to show the kids. Now, I just want a regional power failure on a clear night so they can see it the way it was meant to be seen.

      • The Horse Head Nebula is a smaller part of the Great Nebula-complex, which apparent size is considerably larger. The region sports a large ammount of "star cradels" and is littered with all kinds of nebulae of alla shapes and sizes. The Horse head and the Great Nebula are the most famous and prominent.
      • It's not. The parent post is inaccurate. The horsehead nebula is actually just off Orion's belt.

        It's also very difficult to see, as suggested by the fact that it doesn't have a Messier number.

        • It's not. The parent post is inaccurate. The horsehead nebula is actually just off Orion's belt.

          Yep. The Great Orion nebula, aka M42, is a naked-eye object under any reasonably un-light-polluted sky. I see it well in 7x50 binoculars, and it's amazing in my 115 mm telescope. I see 4 stars in the Trapezium easily, and under good conditions the nebula is faintly green. It photographs as pink, but that's another story about the different spectral response of the humn eye and colour film.

          The Horsehead nebula, on the other hand, is tough. I have photographs that show M42 clearly, with a limiting magnitude about 7.5, but not a hint of I434 and friends, which is 3 degrees north of M42.

          ...laura, looking forward to seeing NGC3372 aka the Eta Carinae nebula in a few weeks

  • Wow! I never thought space could be so colorful, or so pink!

    I wonder what that nebula sounds like.

    • Re:space is pink (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Squeak ( 10756 )
      Most star light (and nebula glow through either reflected star light, or absorbed and re-emitted star light) is at two wavelengths, approx 650nm and 500nm. From memory, these correspond to the hydrogen alpha and oxygen III lines.
      The dark adapted human eye loses a lot of its colour sensitivity, so images seen at night tend to be 'black and white', but even so, it is much more sensitive at 500 than 650nm. This is why nebula such as M42/43 (The 'Great' Orion nebula) and the nearby Horsehead nebula look to be a pale blue-green to the eye. The types of colour film used in astrophotography, and CCD cameras, are highly sensitive to 650nm, but 500nm falls into the less sensitive area between two of the colour emulsion layers of film. This means that photographs come out pink.
  • It looks more like a knight than a horse head..

    I've never seen a horse bend its neck like that..
    • In a few hundred years it may look nothing like a horse. Space clouds move. A few hundred years ago somebody named the "Keyhole Nebula". Now the keyhole shape is gone.

      All the names we give to these things will be obsolete. We will have to go back to calling them NGC3098239874 or whatever.

      I will mostly miss the flipping finger shape from one of those Hubble images. I forgot which nebula it was, but I would love a poster of the finger section. Anybody remember where the "Finger Nebula" was? Much more intruging than the Mars Face.
      • Not sure if this is what you are talking about, but this [] looks like a "flipping finger." :)

        • (* Not sure if this is what you are talking about, but this [] looks like a "flipping finger." *)

          Yeah, thats it! Cool isn't it. God or aliens flipping off the human race?

          Do you suppose they would spend taxpayer money to zoom in on it in later missions? Otherwise the blow-up would look grainy/fuzzy. I want a *nice* poster.

          It even has a "baby finger" next to it. How cute.

          Perhaps they can name the baby the Commute Nebula :-)

  • very nice but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by uncadonna ( 85026 ) < minus caffeine> on Sunday January 27, 2002 @12:29PM (#2909716) Homepage Journal
    there's an important piece of information missing.

    In looking at this I'd appreciate some knowledge of the physical scale of the phenomenon, not in arc-seconds of sky image but in kilometers of extent of the feature.

    It must be enormous, but how enormous? Anyone?
    • Re:very nice but... (Score:5, Informative)

      by at_18 ( 224304 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @12:46PM (#2909763) Journal
      It must be enormous, but how enormous? Anyone?

      Using the Angular size calculator [] (beware: Excel xls file), given a distance of 1.700 light-years, and an apparent width of about 6 x 4 arc-minutes, we have that the nebula is roughly 3 x 2 light-years across.

      It doesn't sound much, but it's almost 30,000,000,000,000 kilometers tall, with a width of 20,000,000,000,000 kilometers. The 3rd dimension is not known, but probably on the same order of magnitude.
      • It's pretty strange how a physical process can work at different scales: turbulent mixing, in this case.

        This cloud that is light-years across could be mistaken for a tiny puff of muddy water a couple of millimeters in diameter. The ratio in volume between the two systems would be something like 10^57, but they look almost identical.

  • Does anyone know where I can download some hi-res pictures of this?

    • Here, at JPL [].
      For reasons that escape me, the bicycling site bikindex has some nice shots, here [] .
      The European Space Agency here [].

      The Gardener

    • Annoys the hell out of me when "news" sites don't have links to relevant sources of information, or to the very places they got the "news" from. Here [] is the ESO page.

      However here [] are the puppies you really want. Spectacular as a desktop.

  • Reportedly... (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Mr_Icon ( 124425 )

    The astronomers were able to locate similar structures in the universe, some much closer to us than previously expected. Thus, the infamous "Horseshit Nebula" has been spotted in the Western Hemisphere and its origins were successfully traced to the Microsoft PR department.

  • by mr3038 ( 121693 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @12:49PM (#2909770)
    Am I the only one trying to find Magrathea from those photos?
  • Egyptians... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BoarderPhreak ( 234086 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @12:53PM (#2909783)
    As a somewhat wannabe Egyptologist, I can't help but wonder if there isn't something up there in the nebula or in Orion that might just give up yet another secret.

    It's common knowledge by now that the ancient Egyptians tried to recreate Heaven on Earth - look at the positioning and size of the pyramids on the Giza plateau as compared to the constellation of Orion's Belt. Even the Milky Way is represented by the Nile in the bigger picture.

    I keep expecting to see Kheops' face in the nebula or something...

    • Re:Egyptians... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by junklight ( 183583 )
      Common Knowledge?

      Its common knowledge that Graham Hancock thinks this - however the argument against it is fairly convincing and the mainstream DOES NOT ACCEPT this theory at all.

      In fact if you have considered Grahams argument closely I doubt you would believe it - there are some fairly serious "kludges" in it even for the casual observer

    • Its very doubtful that there is any correlation between this nebula and egypt. The structure of the Horsehead is impossible to see with the naked eye. Even with a fairly good telescope on a very dark night, you can only see the outline, with no detail. Long exposure photography and some very large telescopes are needed to get any sort of good image of the nebula.
  • by talleyrand ( 318969 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @01:07PM (#2909833) Homepage
    Here's am image what of the astronomers used to see [].

  • Am I the only one who looks at this thing and sees a horse's ass?

    That extension off to the left, that's a tail.

  • It's Edvard Munch's "Scream" cloud.


    • yeah, isn't that weird? i thought i was the only one who had noticed the "grim screamer". i guess humans will try to resolve familiar images out of anything.

      either that or the universe is a lot scarier place than we thought!

    • yeah, i thought i was the only one who noticed the "grim screamer".

      i guess humans will try to resolve familiar images out of anything huh?

      either that or the universe is a lot more scary than we thought...

    • Hmmm...2 "Offtopic" mods. Looks like the crack-smoking brigade is back in town.

      Moderators: read the article and look at the pictures before you start throwing ill-informed "Offtopic" mods around (yes, *this* comment will be modded into a bottomless pit, but the parent was actually on-topic).


  • While the pics at the article site look nice, I'm sure that the clearest ever pictures taken of the Horsehead Nebula are not 72 dpi.

    Anyone got a link to a higher quality version?
    • DPI? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mindstrm ( 20013 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @02:02PM (#2909978)
      This has always bugged me.

      You can't refer to digital images via DPI. It just doens't translate. It's meaningless.
      You can't measure data with a ruler.

      So.. why do you say it's 72dpi?
    • Check that - I believe the thing is several thousands of kilometres across. That means the resolution is a hell of a lot less than 72dpi.
  • ...Until I can snap my consumer-grade giga-pixel pocket
    camera onto my backyard computer-tracking 12" Dobsonian and take pictures like this myself. Of course for concrete canyon dwellers we have the 60mm refractor w/camera for more "earthly" observations...
  • ...look like a horsie!
  • High-res originals are here, and more info can be found here: ot -02-02.html
  • by Seenhere ( 90736 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @02:11PM (#2910018) Homepage
    The Hubble Space Telescope imaged it last year. They ran an internet poll to pick a target for the Hubble to observe, and the Horsehead won (Cowboy Neal was second, maybe). The Hubble Heritage Project published the result (it's a composite with some ground-based images filling in the edges) and it is better than the VLT picture, IMHO. You can see it here [], along with lots of information about how it was made, and high-res versions.

    • by mybecq ( 131456 ) on Sunday January 27, 2002 @03:51PM (#2910415)
      Actually, I think ESO's is a clear winner.
      Compare ESO's [] version (largest is 4.6MB JPEG @ 1951x2366)
      any on Hubble's page [] (wide @ 800x813, closeup @ 1000x800).

      NOAO has better images [] than Hubble's too, but they're also wide angle (but still really nice)...
      Hubble's MPEG movie animation is very cool though.
      • You need to know the size of a resolution element to determine "clarity," which is normally set by the "seeing," the amount of twinkling in the atmosphere, unless you're using sophisticated adaptive optics, or you're using the Hubble. The number of pixels in an image or even the bit depth tells you nothing about the minimum resolvable details in an image. In fact, it's quite likely that the images that get released are resampled and reprocessed to the point that the image dimensions are nothing like what they are in the raw ccd image.

        The artice is a little fuzzy about the details so it's rather difficult to say if it is, in fact better than the Hubble shot, it does look better to my eye, but sometimes your eyes can decieve you.

        On the other hand, if you're only talking about which image makes a better desktop background....

      • There is more to resolution than the size of an image. There are features clearly visible in the Hubble image that are not visible in the VLT image. It simply looks sharper, not to mention that the larger ESO image covers a wider field. The VLT image does seem to have better contrast in some of the darker regions than the Hubble image, but sharper and higher resolution? At best it seem on par with the HST image, not higher resolution. The NOAO images are MUCH lower resolution than both, they look pretty, but certainly not even close to the quality of either the HST or VLT.
        • I think the comparison is almost a wash, given the circumstances:

          1. The Hubble image was done in one shot, but did not have to compensate for atmospheric interference.

          2. The VLT image was done by compositing several images, digitally-processed to remove atmospheric interference.

          I can't wait for the Hubble replacement now in early development. :-)
    • What an outstanding link you provided. I only wish that the excellent new photo discussed in the article was so easily available in downloadable format. While the information with the original article was quite good, in general, of providing a discussion of the who, what, where and when of the Horsehead, the information at your link to site was even better. Many thanks for your excellent and informative link. I missed that on the Heritage site when originally posted somehow. Such contributions are what make Slashdot worth reading. After clicking my way through the assorted trolls and too often inane remarks it is a pleasure to see a post like yours!
  • If we went to the horsehead nebula would we find the Magratheans in suspended animation until the galactic stock prices omproved?
  • What a screw! The link goes to a web site with a low res picture and they want you to subscribe to some crappy printed magazine from Tonbridge, I mean disgusted or what?

    Has anyone got a decent 1600x1200 of this we can download without bothering these wankers?
  • While the images are truly beautiful, I also wanted to note that ESO's VLT system is driven by Tcl/Tk (95% of the UI for the instruments are Tk-based, with Tcl being the scripting glue language for the instruments, connecting C++ libraries). While the machines are mostly HP-UX, they are transitioning to Linux (they are almost wholy a non-MS shop).
  • ...really puts us in our place. I love seeing deep space pictures, even if they are faint through my personal telescope. I think my favorite picture of "putting us in our place" would be the one that is about 2x3 inches, and is just filled with galaxies. At first glace it looks like a lot of stars, but you begin to notice that they are galaxies, hundreds of them in one small photo. Amazing! Anyone have a link to this or have any idea what I'm talking about? :)
  • When are we going to get some high-res images of
    the Pee-Wee Herman face on Mars?
  • Why does it look as if it's a cloud with a single light source shining from the upper right, creating shadows and highlights?

    Is there a light source there, or is it an artifact of their image processing or something else?
    • by kindbud ( 90044 )
      That's exactly what it is, although "upper right" is northwest. Sigma Orionis, far outside the field of view of the camera, is the illuminating star. Most of the stars seen in the image are foreground objects seen hanging in front of the clouds behind them.
  • So the hell what. Notice they say image and not photograph. This is just someone else's artistic rendition of what they think it "looks" like. But since 99% of the information is not in the visible spectrum, whats the point? This data is nor more complete than it was the last time we has such an image. Just that someone though they could make the image more appealing by upping the resolution, but since its all just a simulated image, what is the real point...
  • Am I the only person to see a hooded face in this [] picture? It's about half way down, and 1/4 of the way from the right edge.
    • Yes, this is an interesting phenomenon.
      Often, when viewing pictures of nebula people will see faces. The first time I say a picture I say a bunch of faces that immediatly reminded me of the dwarves from The Hobbit.
  • Looks like the smoke of a burning CueCat [] against a pretty background.
  • The first thing that I noticed when I looked at the link is that there's an fairly easily visible image of some kind of hooded figure that looks eerily like "death" (in the classical image) along the right hand side of the picture.

    If you look at the "head of the horse's", travel down the right side of the "neck", there's a gap where you can see through the image. Am I the only one who sees an image like the masked villian in Scream (the movie)? It was the first thing that I noticed and I was suprised that no one else mentioned it since it seems very clear to me.

    I just throught that I'd mention it since I didn't see anyone else saying this and I start to question whether I'm just seeing inkblot images where other people are seeing butterflies. :)

    Otherwise the pictures are truly amazing. What an amazing universe we live in, and how little can we see from our little section of it.
    • Hmmm... now that I've posted, I notice that someone else did mention it. Oh well, at least I know that I'm not the only one who sees it. :)
    • I don't see the Scream guy. What I DO see in the lower left quadrant is a hippy/Einstein character. His head starts at the top of the quadrant, with mustach, eyes and nose in the nearly transparent section... going down hair and shirt below.
  • maybe they should rename the article, "Scientist take yet another grainy-ass picture of something in outter space, rest of world uninterested."

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"