In celebration of 24 years of operation, the Hubble Space Telescope revisited the Monkey Head Nebula, revealing a stunning image of a stellar nursery.
The Hubble Space Telescope last imaged NGC 2174, also known as the Monkey Head Nebula, back in 2001. Located within the constellation of Orion, the nebula is a region filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust.
In celebration of its 24th year of operation, Hubble revisited this violent stellar nursery, producing a color image composited from multiple photographs taken at various wavelengths. The result is a wave of dark brown and rust-colored dust clouds framed against a background of bright blue gas. Young white and pink stars dot the landscape.
To clarify, the colors we observe within the photo are not what we would see in real life, were we to fly a spaceship to visit the nebula. The Hubble Space Telescope takes black and white pictures – color is added in post-processing.
As we previously explained in our gallery of incredible Hubble Telescope images, “Every HST photo is a composite of multiple photos – typically two or three – each taken to observe a different wavelength of light. The HST can detect not only the visible spectrum of light, but also light that our eyes cannot perceive – ultraviolet and infrared. In this way, the HST is able to visually depict what would otherwise be invisible to us.
“A color is assigned to each black and white photo, generally selected to highlight noteworthy features within an image, and the final composition comes together like a full-color photo, just like how a computer monitor combines red, green, and blue to produce what you observe on-screen. So while these images aren’t exact representations of what you would see if you viewed these galactic beauties yourself, the use of color is only there to bring out their complexity and wonder.”