If you've spent any time looking at space pictures, it's likely you've seen an image of the Horsehead Nebula, named such due to its appearance similar to that of a horsehead. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope recently captured a new image of the nebula, this one in infrared, with its visualization image showing it in dusty detail, the phenomenon appearing to rise like smoke with the top gently falling off to the sides.
Horsehead Nebula was discovered more than 100 years ago, and sadly may not be around too much longer (in space years, anyway) due to vaporization caused by radiation from a close star. Such a change is a slow one, however, and parts of the nebula are protected from the ultraviolet light by a shadow. This image was released as part of a video on Hubble Site, which you can see animated here.
Like all nebulae, the Horsehead Nebula is a cloud made up of helium, hydrogen, and other gases, as well as dust, all of which pull together to form a beautiful space landscape. Given enough time, a nebula can form a star - or can be vaporized, as appears to be the case with this particular Orion Molecular Cloud nebula. Other relatively nearby space objects of note include Barnard's Loop and the Great Orion Nebula.
Hubble Site states that observations from the ground made by the European Southern Observatory's Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, also known as VISTA, were used to fill out the Hubble's image of the nebula, creating a widescreen frame for the animated video it released. The stars in the video are said to be located in a statistical and approximate manner to where the stars are actually located, but while the visualization is "scientifically reasonable," it isn't exactly the same as what is actually up in space.
[via Science World Report]