Astronomy Picture of the Day

Flame Nebula Close-Up

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#98622 by @ 03.02.2007 00:00 - nach oben -
Flame Nebula Close-Up


Of course, the Flame Nebula is not on fire.

Also known as
NGC 2024,
the nebula's suggestive
reddish color is due to the glow
of hydrogen
atoms at the edge of the giant Orion
molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years away.

The hydrogen atoms have been
ionized, or stripped of their
electrons, and glow as the atoms and electrons recombine.

But what ionizes the
hydrogen atoms?

In this
close-up view
a dark lane of absorbing interstellar dust stands out
in silhouette against the
hydrogen glow
and actually hides
the true source of the Flame Nebula's energy from optical

Behind the dark lane lies a cluster of hot, young stars, seen
at infrared
through the obscuring dust.

A young, massive star in that cluster is
the likely source
of energetic ultraviolet radiation that ionizes the
hydrogen gas in the Flame Nebula.

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