horsehead nebula
Image: NASA/NOAO/ESA, THE HUBBLE HERITAGE TEAM (STSCI/AURA)

In honor of its 11th birthday yesterday, the Hubble Space Telescope took a new snapshot of the Horsehead Nebulaa target chosen last year by more than 5,000 Internet voters. The new image shows the nebula, named for its resemblance to a horse's head, in unprecedented detail, revealing the cloud's intricate structure. The bright area in the top left corner is a young star, shrouded in gas and dust. The nebula itself lies just south of Zeta Orionis, the readily visible left-hand star in a line of three forming Orion's Belt.

During the past 11 years, Hubble has made more than 400,000 exposures of some 15,000 astronomical targets. In doing so, it has traveled more than 2.6 billion kilometers, orbiting around the earth 60,000 times. Scientists from the Hubble Heritage Team created this latest image, superimposing Hubble data onto that taken by Nigel A. Sharp using the 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona.