The likes of Michelangelo and Raffaello Sanzio have cemented themselves in history for their artwork depicting the heavens. While the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly stunning, the European Southern Observatory has captured a picture of the actual heavens that looks like a painting straight from the Italian Renaissance.
The space organization was able to create a breathtaking snapshot of the interstellar landscape surrounding the Horsehead Nebula. This was made possible by utilizing image data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the VISTA telescope in Chile. This cosmic masterpiece is 1,600 light-years away in the direction of the Orion constellation and the entire picture spans over 10 light-years.
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The glob of dust and dark gas at the top right of the picture is the iconic Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33. This recognizable space cloud is made up of non-luminous gas, meaning is blocks all of the light behind it. This peculiar mist formation is one small part of a colossal molecular cloud that serves as a nursery for newborn stars.
At the bottom left of this intergalactic topography resides a bright white pocket, known as the reflection nebula NGC 2023. This bright spot surrounded by dark wisps of gas is the result of white-hot newly born stars. The floating dust particles in this region of space slowly clump up until they become massive enough to become stars or planets.
Not only is this area a majestic work of natural art, but improved imagery of this space region helps astronomers further understand the evolutionary process of stars out in the cosmos.