While the Hubble Heritage Team, assisted by O'Dell, Ray, and Corcoran, pointed the Hubble
Space Telescope (HST) at NGC 1999, astronomer George Jacoby from the National
Optical Astronomical Observatory (NOAO) aimed
the National Science Foundation's 0.9 meter telescope
on Kitt Peak at the same area of the sky. The image
above was created using data from their new wide-field
MOSAIC camera. To learn more about the NOAO image
please visit their NGC 1999 website.
The field of view
of the HST image covers a small region in the center
of the brightest cloud (in the lower left of the
Two centuries ago the observational science of
astronomy was advancing rapidly, mostly through
the efforts of the musician turned astronomer, Sir
William Herschel, who explored the sky with telescopes
of his own construction. Together with his sister
Caroline, he discovered many new objects and kept
records of their appearance and position. Eventually
this list was extended and published by his son
Sir John Herschel, and the modern form of the list
is known as the New General Catalog or NGC. Apparently
Herschel noted NGC 1999 as one of the most spectacular
of the thousands of objects he discovered. Our knowledge
of this object has of course improved in the ensuing
time and we now have a refined picture of what it
Astronomers now know that NGC 1999 is a member
of a large class of objects known as reflection
nebulae. They shine only because the light from
a nearby star illuminates their dust; they do not
emit any light themselves. NGC 1999 lies on the
side of the Orion Nebula region nearest the Earth.
It is illuminated by a very young star, which has
about twice the surface temperature of our own Sun.
The star itself is interesting because it is so
young that it still has a surrounding cloud of left-over
material from its formation. Moreover, the star
is variable in brightness. Ground-based observations
indicate that it is actually a close pair of stars.
One of pair is the source of a fast jet of material,
known as a Herbig-Haro object.