Barnard 33, Horsehead Nebula

Horsehead
Barnard 33, Horsehead Nebula. Image Credit: Steve Cannistra
Barnard 33, Horsehead Nebula: Before I even start I would like to say that this is a challenge object that requires patience, a moderately sized telescope and most of all, a dark sky. If you don’t think you can find the horsehead nebula, don’t worry because this object is quite fascinating and I’ll tell you all about it! The horsehead nebula or Barnard 33 has an interesting backstory: although there are a few claims as to who discovered this nebula the general consensus is that it was discovered by Williamena Fleming. This cloud of gas gives off little or no light but is seen as a silhouette in front of a brighter nebula, IC 434. Both of these clouds are part of the huge region of sky that makes up the Orion Cloud Complex, a large cloud that is the birthplace of many young stars. This complex also includes the Great Orion Nebula. The horsehead itself is located roughly 1,500 light years away and is quite fluid. The gas is constantly moving and will eventually be destroyed by the radiation of nearby stars. The Horsehead Nebula really does look like the head of a horse and this is why it is so famous. However what you probably don’t know is how small and hard to find it is… To locate the Horsehead Nebula, look to the belt of Orion, 3 very bright stars making up a straight line. Find the Eastmost star of Orion’s belt and look slightly below it. That is where the nebula is located but don’t expect to find a huge horsehead. When you look at this region of the sky with a mid to large aperture telescope you will see a somewhat dim nebula. If you look closer you will see a small black area in the nebula as if something is blocking it. That is the horsehead nebula. This black patch will look more like a horse as the telescope you are using gets bigger. If you can find the Horsehead, pat yourself on the back, that is a major accomplishment!

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