A multi-colored Blue Horsehead Nebula

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for April 23rd is more painterly than usual:

“The Blue Horsehead Nebula in Infrared”. Image Credit: WISE, IRSA, NASA; Processing & Copyright : Francesco Antonucci

Note that processing of an infrared image allows for considerable freedom in how the final rendering appears. In this case, it was rendered with great artistry by Mr. Antonucci.

From the caption:

The Blue Horsehead Nebula looks quite different in infrared light. In visible light, the reflecting dust of the nebula appears blue and shaped like a horse’s head. In infrared light, however, a complex labyrinth of filaments, caverns, and cocoons of glowing dust and gas emerges, making it hard to even identify the equine icon. The featured image of the nebula was created in three infrared colors (R=22, G=12, B=4.6 microns) from data taken by NASA’s orbiting Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. The nebula is cataloged as IC 4592 and spans about 40 light years, lying about 400 light years away toward the constellation Scorpius along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy. IC 4592 is fainter but covers an angularly greater region than the better known Horsehead Nebula of Orion. The star that predominantly illuminates and heats the dust is Nu Scorpii, visible as the yellow star left of center.