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Astronomers Release Breathtaking New View of Orion Nebula

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The famous Orion Nebula can be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch surrounding the star Theta Orionis in the Hunter’s Sword, below Orion’s belt.

This image of the Orion Nebula features plenty of dust but no stars. The color image is a composite of separate exposures acquired by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer and ESA’s Herschel Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA / ESA / JPL-Caltech.

Also known as NGC 1976, Messier 42 (M42), LBN 974, or Sharpless 281, the Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula in the constellation of Orion.

It spans about 24 light-years and is located approximately 1,630 light-years away from Earth.

It can be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch surrounding the star Theta Orionis in the Hunter’s Sword, below Orion’s belt.

At only 2 million years old, the Orion Nebula is an ideal laboratory for studying young stars and stars that are still forming.

It offers a glimpse of what might have happened when the Sun was born 4.6 billion years ago.

The glowing cloud had been known since the beginnings of recorded astronomy as a star, but it is so outstanding that it was first noted as an extended nebula in 1610, only a year after Galileo Galilei’s first use of the telescope.

Detailed descriptions of the nebula started appearing later in the 17th century, and it has been a popular target for anyone with a telescope ever since.

“The Orion Nebula is located in the constellation Orion, which takes the appearance of a hunter raising a club and shield at an unseen target,” NASA astronomers said.

“Three stars in a line are together known as Orion’s belt; the region shown in the image aligns with another series of stars perpendicular to the belt, known as Orion’s sword. If you could see it in the sky, the region would appear about the size of the full Moon.”

“Two enormous caverns that dominate the cloud were carved out by giant stars — unseen in this image — that can release up to a million times more light than our Sun,” they added.

“All that radiation breaks apart dust grains there, helping to create the pair of cavities.”

“Much of the remaining dust is swept away by winds from stars or when the stars explode as supernovae.”

“The blue light in these areas indicates warm dust,” the researchers explained.

“Observed in infrared light, the views were provided by NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope and the agency’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which now operates under the moniker NEOWISE.”

“Around the edge of the two cavernous regions, the dust that appears green is slightly cooler.”

“Red indicates cold dust that reaches temperatures of about minus 260 degrees Celsius (minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit).”

“The red and green light shows data from ESA’s Herschel Space Telescope, an observatory that captured wavelengths of light in the far-infrared and microwave ranges, where cold dust radiates.”

“Herschel’s large mirror provided high-resolution views of these clouds, which are full of contours, nooks, and crannies.”

“The cold dust appears mostly on the outskirts of the dust cloud, away from the regions where stars form.”

“In between the two hollow regions are orange filaments where dust condenses and forms new stars.”

“Over time, these filaments may produce new giant stars that will once again reshape the region.”

Source : Breaking Science News

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