A Multi-wavelength view of the Orion B Molecular Cloud

The region around zeta Orionis, the left-most belt star in Orion. This image was taken on photographic film in visible light. Notice the dark patches of molecular cloud material that make up the dark dust lane in NGC 2024 (on the left-bottom) and the Horsehead Nebula (right-middle).
Here's a coarse image of the left-most nebula, NGC 2024, taken in infrared light (4 times "redder" than you can see with your eye). Compare this image with the one above -- notice that infrared light can peer through the dark lane of obscuring gas and dust. This infrared image reveals hundreds of newly-forming stars, still cocooned in the reservoir of material that formed them.
To convince you that indeed there are molecules in these clouds, here's an image taken in the microwave light of CO (carbon monoxide) molecules in the Horsehead Nebula (which is the famous dark patch of obscuring dust you see in the visible-light image, above). Notice that at these radio wavelengths, the molecular gas that was dark and obscuring in visible light is now what's luminous; and that stars and nebulosity visible to the eye are now totally absent.

Last modified: Mon Jun 12 18:17:30 MST 2000