A witch screaming out into space, hundreds of light-years away from Earth

Devdiscourse News Desk | California | Updated: 04-10-2022 12:05 IST | Created: 04-10-2022 12:04 IST
A witch screaming out into space, hundreds of light-years away from Earth
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In this throwback image from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), a witch appears to be screaming out into space. The Witch Head nebula is located hundreds of light-years away in the constellation of Orion, just off the famous hunter's knee.

Formally known as IC 2118 in the constellation Orion, the Witch Head Nebula is named after its resemblance to the profile of a wicked witch and it glows primarily by light reflected from the star.

Astronomers say the billowy clouds of the nebula, where baby stars are brewing, are being lit up by massive stars. Dust in the cloud is being hit with starlight, causing it to glow with infrared light, which was picked up by WISE's detectors.

NASA's WISE was launched on December 14, 2009, and by early 2011, it had finished scanning the entire sky twice in infrared light, snapping pictures of three-quarters of a billion objects, including remote galaxies, stars and asteroids.

The space telescope was repurposed to hunt for near-Earth objects (NEOs) throughout the solar system in a program called NEOWISE. The reactivation came after the spacecraft was put to sleep in 2011 when it completed two planned full scans of the sky.

Last year, the NEOWISE mission got an extension for two more years, which means it will operate until June 2023. The asteroid hunter is operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. NEOWISE's replacement, the next-generation NEO Surveyor, is targeted for launch in 2026.

Give Feedback