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National Optical Astronomical Observatory's NGC 1999

Hubble Space Telescope's NGC 1999

Link to image at the NOAO NGC 1999 website

Main NGC 1999 Hubble Heritage display page.

Image courtesy of AURA/NOAO/NSF. It was constructed by Travis Rector and Brenda Wolpa (NOAO) with the participation of Jayanne English, Lisa Frattare, and Zolt Levay of The Hubble Heritage Team (NASA/STScI/AURA). The data were collected by George Jacoby (NOAO). For a higher resolution images please visit NOAO's NGC 1999 website.

Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). These data were collected by the Hubble Heritage Team with the collaboration of star-formation experts C. Robert O'Dell (Rice University), Thomas P. Ray (Dublin Institute for Advanced Study), and David Corcoran (University of Limerick).

North is to the top and east is to the left in both images.

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 NOAO image).

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 is.

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.