Orion, warm and visible

Contributed by
Nov 7, 2006
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It's been a while since I posted a pretty picture. So here you go:

This newly released image shows the good ol' Orion Nebula, one of if not the most active star-forming regions in the Galaxy. It's pretty closeby as these things go, just 1500 light years away (the Galaxy is 100,000 light years across, so Orion is practically sitting in our lap).

The image is a combination of visible light images taken by Hubble and infrared ones by Spitzer. It's a little garish for my taste, but still cool. It shows shock waves as the four massive central stars (called the Trapezium) blast out ultraviolet light, heated hydrogen and sulfur gas, complex molecules which glow in the IR, and a lot of the chaos and weirdness typical in a nebula like this.

In a million years, maybe two, all four of the Trapezium stars will have exploded, and over the ensuing centuries the nebula will become even more of a mess, if you can imagine. So savor it now while you can.