Witch Head Nebula and Rigel

Near Rigel, a bright star found in the constellation Orion, lies the Witch Head Nebula (look closely to see the face!). This nebula is a reflection nebula– a cloud of dust that is lit up by nearby stars. Rigel’s starlight reflects off the dust to light up this very faint nebula. Photographer and CIERA graduate student Imran Sultan captured the image in December 2022 from the southwestern New Mexico desert, home of some of the darkest skies in America. Even from this location, Sultan had to collect data for three hours to capture enough light to produce the image. Sultan, who practices astrophotography in his free time, is a graduate student in CIERA Professor Claude-Andre Faucher-Giguere’s group. In 2023, Sultan’s photo of the Western Veil Nebula and the Flower Moon won first place and runner-up respectively in the astronomy category of the Royal Society Publishing Photography Competition.

Credit: Imran Sultan/Northwestern/CIERA

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