Sunday Image: The glorious Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula, M42, NGC 1976. Image credit: The Advanced Camera for Surveys, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

Orion Nebula, M42, NGC 1976. Image credit: The Advanced Camera for Surveys, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

In my early teens, the Orion Nebula was the first nebula I saw using my small backyard refractor telescope. I recall faint swirls of color that were different than anything else I had seen in the heavens. 

Over the years, and especially since 1994 when Corrective Optics were applied to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, images of our cosmos have markedly improved.

In 2004 and 2005, using the Advanced Camera for Surveys, Hubble was able peer further into Orion Nebula and see the “cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming.”  According to Hubble Site, "Astronomers used 520 Hubble images, taken in five colors, to make this picture. They also added ground-based photos to fill out the nebula."

And what we now see is a gorgeous mix of over 3,000 stars, protoplanetary disks (birthing solar systems just at the edge of resolution in this mosaic image), and even, at upper left, a nebula within a nebula, what astronomers describe a “miniature Orion Nebula because only one star is sculpting the landscape.”

Through this remarkable image, we again meet the Orion Nebula, the closest birthplace of stars and planets. At the speed of light, we would travel 1,500 light-years before arriving.

John Oró, MD

 

Related Posts