Old Is Gold Image Credit: Chiiz
Old Is Gold Image Credit: Chiiz

Old Is Gold

Horsehead Nebula by Williamina Fleming and William Henry Pickering

Approximately 1400 light years from Earth rests a small dark nebula about 2-3 light years across in the Orion constellation. This nebula, located on the eastern side of Orion’s belt, is a part of a much larger cloud complex. Yet, it makes sure it stands out, looking very much like the head of a horse. Known commonly thus as Horsehead Nebula, it was first discovered by Williamina Fleming and recorded in 1888 on a photographic plate in Harvard College Observatory.

A nebula is a cloud of dust and gas in outer space, and Horsehead is a region in Orion Molecular Cloud Complex containing over a hundred organic and inorganic gases and large organic molecules of dust. It is prominent in the winter evening sky in the Southern Hemisphere and summer evening sky in the Nothern Hemisphere. It alternates into nearly complete opacity (in optical light) and transparency (in infrared) due to blocking all light and glowing due to nearby Orion’s star. It is beautiful in the sense that it is a womb for bright young stars in the process of formation. The bright spots visible on the nebula are low-mass protostars. It is speculated that the clouds of the nebula have already dissipated but it is made of a more stronger material that stays together and hasn’t eroded.

The Horsehead Nebula is most easily recognizable, and most photographed and documented due to its beauty, characteristics and location.

Edward Bernard was the person to describe it first, and so, as was common practice at the time to not credit the women behind a discovery, Bernard cataloged it under the name of Bernard 33 and Williamina’s notebooks were forgotten, alive only in boxes stor

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