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Tuesday, February 9, 2016 12:00am -0500

A Stellar Stallion: The Horsehead Nebula

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Horsehead Nebula Horsehead Nebula David Lindemann

I spent a lot of time looking up before using a telescope when I was wee lad, before I did, I saw multitudes of pictures in books, some of them were photographs, some of them were drawings but I could never quite understand how, simply put, why they were there. I just enjoyed the dark, black, blanket of space and how magnificent it made me feel when I looked up and began to understand there was space stuff I couldn't see but I knew was there. That was the moment I got hooked in astronomy.

The defining picture that gripped me was the Horsehead Nebula. Alas, do not be fooled like I was, the pictures I saw, showed the Horsehead dominating the picture, the photograph (below / above) is more accurate of what you will see.

This beauty, telescopically was the first celestial object I saw through a telescope, at the time I didn't understand why it was upside down. So when I saw it, (upside down) I didn't tell my Dad, (who helped to acclimatise my first telescope to the cold) in case they thought I was wrong, but I knew I wasn't.

So the Horsehead nebula, well I will tell you what I know.

First thing. It is quite awkward to find but well worth the effort. Set in Orion, this nebula demonstrates how dust in space can help shape what we see. Set in the Orion Molecular cloud complex, it sounds confusing but just think of it is a rather large place to point your telescope to see stars being born.

The important thing to point out is that the Horsehead itself is not the interesting part, that happens behind it, from a relatively new star called Sigma Orionis. The dust of the Horsehead simply obscures our view of a star.The Horsehead Nebula

If you have a telescope already, I urge you you to try and find it, if you are in the Northern hemisphere, go down a bit and left a bit from the star Alnitak, if you are in the southern hemisphere look up a bit and then right a bit. There are proper co-ordinates but personally I think this takes the fun out of it.

If you want a telescope, bear the Horsehead in mind, and if you look for it don't be disappointed as it can be hard. Try with the easy stuff first, like Mars, or Venus. Use the Moon to get familiar with the scope. When your comfortable, hunt the Horsehead down...it really is spectacular.

Oh yes,,,,,I forgot to say, about a week later, my Dad looked up from his newspaper and simply said. " I forgot to tell you, if you see things upside down in the telescope, it's not broken"

The photos of the Horsehead nebula were taken and processed by astrophotographer David Lindeman from his home in the Swiss Alps. 

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