Euclid shows us a stunning panoramic and detailed view of the Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33 and part of the constellation Orion.
Located about 1,375 light-years away, which can be seen as a dark cloud shaped like a horse’s head, the Horsehead region is the closest giant star formation region to Earth. It lies just south of the star Alnitak, the easternmost point of Orion’s famous three-star belt, and is part of the vast Orion molecular cloud.
Unprecedented imaging capabilities
Many other telescopes have captured images of the Horsehead Nebula, but none have been able to create a view as sharp and wide as Euclid’s with a single observation. Euclid captured this image of the horse’s head in about an hour, demonstrating the mission’s ability to image an unprecedented area of the sky very quickly and with a high level of detail.
A stellar nursery full of possibilities
In Euclid’s new observation of this stellar nursery, scientists hope to discover many mysterious and previously unseen elements. Jupiter-Massive planets in their celestial infancy, as well as small brown dwarfs and newborn stars.
“We are particularly interested in this region, because star formation occurs under very special conditions,” explains Eduardo Martín Guerrero de Escalante from the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands in Tenerife and a former Euclid scientist.
Sigma orionis effect
These strange conditions are caused by radiation from the very bright star Sigma Orionis, located above the Horse’s Head, just outside Euclid’s field of view (the star is so bright that a telescope would not see anything else if it were pointing directly at it). ).
Ultraviolet radiation from Sigma Orionis causes the clouds behind the horse’s head to glow, while thick clouds from the horse’s head itself block the light directly behind it; It makes the head dark. The nebula itself consists largely of cold molecular hydrogen, which emits very little heat and no light. Astronomers study the differences in star formation conditions between dark and bright clouds.
Searching for the unseen members of the Sigma Orionis group
The star Sigma Orionis itself belongs to a group of more than a hundred stars, called the open cluster. However, astronomers do not have a complete picture of all the stars that belong to the cluster. “Gaia has revealed many new members, but we already see new candidate stars, brown dwarfs and planetary-mass objects in this image of Euclid, so we hope Euclid will give us a more complete picture,” Eduardo adds.
See more of Euclid’s early pictures.
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