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Hubble spies ghostly Reflection Nebula
Reflection Nebula  

March 3, 2000
Web posted at: 1:22 PM EST (1822 GMT)

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- A space shuttle landing on a cloudy day? A bat flying in a full moon fog? A Klingon ship with a faulty cloaking device? Not even close. This recent image snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the Reflection Nebula, showcasing a stark contrast between light and dark clouds in the cosmos.

Located near the Orion Nebula, the bright clouds of the Reflection Nebula shine in the reflected light of Orionis, a young star that burns nearly twice as hot as the sun, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute.

While the cosmic material around Orionis glows like an illuminated mist around a street lamp, its light cannot pass through the dark cloud that dominates the central area of the image, the institute said in a statement.

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Known as a Bok globule, the oddly shaped fog is a collection of gas, molecules and dust so dense it absorbs the light behind it. Orionis itself, however, peaks around the edge of the silhouette on the left.

The star burns at about 10,000 degrees Celsius and has more than three times the mass of the sun. It still retains a cloud of residual material from its birth, which forms the Reflection Nebula.

The nebula is 1,500 light years from Earth in an area of the Milky Way galaxy where many stars are born. And new one could be forming inside this Bok globule, as dust and gas condense under the weight of their own gravity, astronomers say.

Hubble Heritage Team astronomers, in collaboration with scientists in Texas and Ireland, released this January 2000 Hubble image this week.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, operates the orbiting Hubble telescope.



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RELATED SITE:
Space Telescope Science Institute Home Page
Astronomy Pictures from the Hubble Heritage Project: Table of Contents
NASA Homepage
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