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As NASA's Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 11th birthday, its JPL-built camera has added picture number 100,000 to its bulging photo album.
A sampling of images taken by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/wfpcfavorites.
In honor of the birthday and by popular demand, the Hubble team has released a new WFPC2 image of the Horsehead nebula, available online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/pictures/wfpc. Last year, 500,000 online voters, including students, teachers, and professional and amateur astronomers, chose the nebula as an astronomical target for Hubble to observe. Additional images and an animation of the Horsehead nebula are available at http://heritage.stsci.edu/public/2001may/supplemental.html.
Rising from a sea of dust and gas like a giant seahorse, the Horsehead nebula is one of the most photographed objects in the sky. Hubble's WFPC2 camera took a close-up look at this heavenly icon, revealing the cloud's intricate structure.
The Horsehead, also known as Barnard 33, is a cold, dark cloud of gas and dust silhouetted against the bright red nebula IC 434. The bright area at the top left edge is a young star still embedded in its nursery of gas and dust. But radiation from this hot star is eroding the stellar nursery. The top of the nebula also is being sculpted by radiation from a massive star located out of Hubble's field-of-view.
The nebula was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. Located in the constellation Orion, the Horsehead nebula lies just south of the bright star Zeta Orionis, which is easily visible to the unaided eye as the left-hand star in the line of three that form Orion's Belt.
This image was composed by the Hubble Heritage Team at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md. The team superimposed Hubble data onto ground-based data taken by Nigel A. Sharp at the .9-meter (35-inch) telescope at the National Science Foundation's Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz.
The magnificent extent of the Horsehead is best appreciated in a new wide-field image of the nebula being released today by the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, taken by Travis Rector with the same .9-meter (35-inch) telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. The image is available at http://www.noao.edu/image_gallery/html/im0661.html.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was launched on April 24, 1990. The Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). JPL, which designed and built the WFPC-2 camera, is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Additional information about the Hubble Space Telescope and more images are available at http://www.stsci.edu. More information about WFPC2 is available at http://wfpc2.jpl.nasa.gov.
Image Credit: NASA, NOAO, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: K. Noll (Hubble Heritage PI/STScI), C. Luginbuhl (USNO), F. Hamilton (Hubble Heritage/STScI)