Wicked Witch of Orion

“Witches are one of the most popular characters associated with Halloween and there happens to be a cosmic witch right in our own galactic backyard. IC 2118, commonly referred to as the Witch Head Nebula, is located approximately 800 light-years away just off the “knee” of the Orion constellation. Unlike emission nebulae, IC 2118 is a very faint reflection nebula and reflects the light of nearby star Rigel. Thought to be the result of an ancient supernova or perhaps a molecular gas cloud, the nebula resembles a witch’s head.

Just as witches in stories and movies brew potions, this cosmic witch is brewing up new stars. The infant stars appear as reddish “warts” on the witch’s chin. The massive billowing clouds are illuminated by starlight, making them “glow”. The image seen here is an infrared portrait of this nebula was captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) before it was put into hibernation mode in 2011. Astronomers are in the process of reviving WISE to use for a future asteroid hunt (NEOWISE). ”

-ALT via [The Universe]
Source:
http://1.usa.gov/1cpYJqZ

Image Credit:
NASA/JPL

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