Cosmic Horsehead Dances with Flame Nebula in Amateur Astronomer's Photo

Horsehead and Flame Nebulae by David Ellison
David Ellison captured this image of the Horsehead and Flame Nebulae from his backyard in Chattanooga, Tenn. The image was sent to Nov. 28, 2013. (Image credit: David Ellison)

The iconic Horsehead and Flame nebulas paint the night sky in this beautiful image recently sent to

Amateur astrophotographer David Ellison captured this image from his backyard in Chattanooga, Tenn. Located approximately 1,500 light years from Earth in the constellation Orion, the Horsehead Nebula is simple to spot due to its unique shape resembling a horse's head. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

"People don't realize just how large this nebula is in the sky," Ellison told in an email. His image is a narrow band photograph of four hours of exposure using a QSI camera and a 4-inch telescope. The star seen just above the Flame nebula is Alnitak.  [100 Greatest Night Sky Photos of 2013]

The Horsehead Nebula is also called Barnard 33 in emission nebula IC 434 and is part of a large, dark molecular cloud. It was first spotted in 1888 by astronomers at the Harvard College Observatory, who imaged the nebula using a telescope and photographic plates.

To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by readers, visit our astrophotography archive.

Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at

Follow on Twitter @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook & Google+. Original article on

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Contributing Writer and Producer

Nina Sen is a freelance writer and producer who covered night sky photography and astronomy for She began writing and producing content for in 2011 with a focus on story and image production, as well as amazing space photos captured by NASA telescopes and other missions. Her work also includes coverage of amazing images by astrophotographers that showcase the night sky's beauty.