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Project 365 - Horsehead Nebula

Tammy Plotner and Jeff Barber, Universe Today

Are you ready to meet the challenge of a new moon? Therefore, you should use the time when the sky is dark to look towards Orion. Tonight Mattartino is a lone star, but there are many things hidden behind this point of light.
Our first stop is the easternmost star in Orion's "belt" - Zeta Orionis, or better known as Alnitak. At a distance of about 1,600 light years, this beautiful star with a magnitude of 1.7 contains many surprises - it is a double star system. A powerful telescope and exceptionally clear skies are needed to reveal the companion star. But if you want more, look a little east and visit the Fiery Nebula again - a field of nebula illuminated by Alnitak. The nebula, NGC 2024, is an impressive region of nebulae that extends across the visible size of the full moon.
Still not enough, switch to a large telescope and take Zeta out of the field of view towards the north at high power and allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. When you look again you will see a long pale strip of nebula known as IC434 south of Zeta. It melts across the surface towards the south. The eastern end of this strip is very bright and it darkens towards the west. Now hold your breath and look almost directly in the center - see the dark valley with the two bright stars to the south of it? You are now located in one of the most famous nebulae - Barnard's Dark Nebula -B33.

You can breathe now. B33 is known as the "Horsehead Nebula". The "Horsehead" is a very picturesque nebula - the classic chess piece, the knight, is only really appreciated in pictures, but those of you with a wide key will be able to see a dark valley. Enhance it with a special haze filter. B33 is a small area from the cosmic point of view, only about one light year wide. It is nothing more than dark dust and non-luminous gas, but what an amazing shape it has.
If you don't succeed on the first try, try again. The "horse's head" is one of the most challenging objects in the sky and can only be viewed with a key greater than 150 millimeters.

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