The nebula is important because of its sheer size, as it spreads several degrees from Orion’s Belt to his sword. It is also one of the most active regions of stellar formation visible in the night sky, and is home to both protoplanetary discs and very young stars. The nebula is bright in infrared wavelengths due to the heat-intensive processes involved in the stellar formation, though the complex contains dark nebulae, emission nebulae, reflection nebulae, and H II regions.
The Horsehead Nebula (also known as Barnard 33 ) is a dark nebula in the constellation Orion.
The nebula is located just to the south of the star Alnitak, which is farthest east on Orion’s Belt, and is part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The nebula was first recorded in 1888 by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming on photographic plate B2312 taken at the Harvard College Observatory. The Horsehead Nebula is approximately 1500 light years from Earth. It is one of the most identifiable nebulae because of the shape of its swirling cloud of dark dust and gases, which bears some resemblance to a horse’s head when viewed from Earth.
Barnard’s Loop (catalogue designation Sh 2-276) is an emission nebula in the constellation of Orion. It is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex which also contains the dark Horsehead and bright Orion nebulae. The loop takes the form of a large arc centred approximately on the Orion Nebula. The stars within the Orion Nebula are believed to be responsible for ionizing the loop.
The loop extends over about 600 arcminutes as seen from Earth, covering much of Orion. It is well seen in long-exposure photographs, although observers under very dark skies may be able to see it with the naked eye.
Recent estimates place it at a distance of either 159 pc (518 light years) or 440 pc (1434 ly) giving it dimensions of either about 100 or 300 ly across respectively. It is thought to have originated in a supernova explosion about 2 million years ago, which may have also created several known runaway stars, including AE Aurigae, Mu Columbae and 53 Arietis, which are believed to have been part of a multiple star system in which one component exploded as a supernova.
Although this faint nebula was certainly observed by earlier astronomers, it is named after the pioneering astrophotographer E. E. Barnard who photographed it and published a description in 1894.”
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