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Hubble Takes a Close-Up View of a Reflection Nebula in Orion

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  • Mark A. LeCuyer
    Source: Space Telescope Science Institute March 2, 2000 PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC00-10 Hubble Takes a Close-Up View of a Reflection Nebula in Orion Just weeks after
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2000
      Source: Space Telescope Science Institute
      March 2, 2000

      PHOTO NO.: STScI-PRC00-10

      Hubble Takes a Close-Up View of a Reflection Nebula in Orion

      Just weeks after NASA astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope
      in December 1999, the Hubble Heritage Project snapped this picture of
      NGC 1999, a nebula in the constellation Orion. The Heritage
      astronomers, in collaboration with scientists in Texas and Ireland,
      used Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to obtain the
      color image.

      NGC 1999 is an example of a reflection nebula. Like fog around a
      street lamp, a reflection nebula shines only because the light from an
      embedded source illuminates its dust; the nebula does not emit any
      visible light of its own. NGC 1999 lies close to the famous Orion
      Nebula, about 1,500 light-years from Earth, in a region of our Milky
      Way galaxy where new stars are being formed actively. The nebula is
      famous in astronomical history because the first Herbig-Haro object
      was discovered immediately adjacent to it (it lies just outside the
      new Hubble image). Herbig-Haro objects are now known to be jets of gas
      ejected from very young stars.

      The NGC 1999 nebula is illuminated by a bright, recently formed star,
      visible in the Hubble photo just to the left of center. This star is
      cataloged as V380 Orionis, and its white color is due to its high
      surface temperature of about 10,000 degrees Celsius (nearly twice that
      of our own Sun). Its mass is estimated to be 3.5 times that of the
      Sun. The star is so young that it is still surrounded by a cloud of
      material left over from its formation, here seen as the NGC 1999
      reflection nebula.

      The WFPC2 image of NGC 1999 shows a remarkable jet-black cloud near
      its center, resembling a letter T tilted on its side, located just to
      the right and lower right of the bright star. This dark cloud is an
      example of a "Bok globule," named after the late University of Arizona
      astronomer Bart Bok. The globule is a cold cloud of gas, molecules,
      and cosmic dust, which is so dense it blocks all of the light behind
      it. In the Hubble image, the globule is seen silhouetted against the
      reflection nebula illuminated by V380 Orionis. Astronomers believe
      that new stars may be forming inside Bok globules, through the
      contraction of the dust and molecular gas under their own gravity.

      NGC 1999 was discovered some two centuries ago by Sir William Herschel
      and his sister Caroline, and was cataloged later in the 19th century
      as object 1999 in the New General Catalogue.

      These data were collected in January 2000 by the Hubble Heritage Team
      with the collaboration of star-formation experts C. Robert O'Dell
      (Rice University), Thomas P. Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced
      Study), and David Corcoran (University of Limerick).

      Image Credit: NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI)

      For additional information, please contact:
      Professor C. R. O'Dell, Rice University, MS 108, PO Box 1892, Houston,
      Texas 77251-1892, (phone) 713-348-3633, (fax) 713-348-5143, (e-mail)
      cro@... or

      Professor T.P. Ray, School Of Cosmic Physics, Dublin Institute for
      Advanced Studies, 5 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, Ireland, (phone) +353 1
      6621333, (fax) +353 1 6621477, (e-mail) tr@... or

      Keith Noll, Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive,
      Baltimore, Md. 21218, (e-mail) noll@....

      Image files are available on the Internet at:
      http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/pr/2000/10 or via links in
      http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/latest.html and

      Higher resolution digital versions (300 dpi JPEG and TIFF) are
      available at:


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