Euclid’s view of the Horsehead Nebula
November 7th, 2023
Credit: ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA

Euclid shows us a spectacularly panoramic and detailed view of the Horsehead Nebula, also known as Barnard 33 and part of the constellation Orion.

At approximately 1375 light-years away, the Horsehead – visible as a dark cloud shaped like a horse’s head – is the closest giant star-forming region to Earth. It sits just to the south of star Alnitak, the easternmost of Orion’s famous three-star belt, and is part of the vast Orion molecular cloud.

Many other telescopes have taken images of the Horsehead Nebula, but none of them are able to create such a sharp and wide view as Euclid can with just one observation. Euclid captured this image of the Horsehead in about one hour, which showcases the mission's ability to very quickly image an unprecedented area of the sky in high detail.

Technical details: The data in this image were taken in just about one hour of observation. This color image was obtained by combining VIS data and NISP photometry in Y and H bands; its size is 8800 x 8800 pixels. VIS and NISP enable observing astronomical sources in four different wavelength ranges. Aesthetics choices led to the selection of three out of these four bands to be cast onto the traditional Red-Green-Blue color channels used to represent images on our digital screens (RGB).

The blue, green, red channels capture the Universe seen by Euclid around the wavelength 0.7, 1.1, and 1.7 micron respectively. This gives Euclid a distinctive color palette: hot stars have a white-blue hue, excited hydrogen gas appears in the blue channel, and regions rich in dust and molecular gas have a clear red hue. Distant redshifted background galaxies appear very red.

In the image, the stars have six prominent spikes due to how light interacts with the optical system of the telescope in the process of diffraction. Another signature of Euclid special optics is the presence of a few, very faint and small round regions of a fuzzy blue color. These are normal artifacts of complex optical systems, so-called ‘optical ghost’; easily identifiable during data analysis, they do not cause any problem for the science goals.

ESA/Euclid/Euclid Consortium/NASA, image processing by J.-C. Cuillandre (CEA Paris-Saclay), G. Anselmi, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO


About the Object

Horsehead NebulaBarnard 33
Nebula > Type > Star Formation
Nebula > Type > Interstellar Medium
Nebula > Appearance > Dark
1,375 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Optical 700 nm Euclid VIS
Infrared 1.1 µm Euclid NISP
Infrared 1.7 µm Euclid NISP


Position ()
RA = 5h 40m 39.6s
Dec = -2° 31' 52.9"
Field of View
41.0 x 41.0 arcminutes
North is 91.5° left of vertical