The Orion Nebula
This spectacular color panorama of the center the Orion nebula is one of the largest pictures ever assembled from individual images taken with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The picture, seamlessly composited from a mosaic of 15 separate fields, covers an area of sky about five percent the area covered by the full Moon. The seemingly infinite tapestry of rich detail revealed by Hubble shows a churning turbulent star factory set within a maelstrom of flowing, luminescent gas. Though this 2.5 light-years wide view is still a small portion of the entire nebula, it includes almost all of the light from the bright glowing clouds of gas and a star cluster associated with the nebula. The mosaic reveals at least 153 glowing protoplanetary disks (first discovered with the Hubble in 1992, and dubbed "proplyds") that are believed to be embryonic solar systems that will eventually form planets. (Our solar system has long been considered the relic of just such a disk that formed around the newborn Sun). The proplyds that are closest to the Trapezium stars (image center) are shedding some of their gas and dust. The pressure of starlight from the hottest stars forms "tails" which act like wind vanes pointing away from the Trapezium. These tails result from the light from the star pushing the dust and gas away from the outside layers of the proplyds. In addition to the luminescent proplyds, seven disks are silhouetted against the bright background of the nebula. Located 1, 500 light-years away, along our spiral arm of the Milky Way, the Orion nebula is located in the middle of the sword region of the constellation Orion the Hunter, which dominates the early winter evening sky at northern latitudes.
The center of the Orion Nebula, known as the Trapezium Cluster
The center of the Orion Nebula (Messir 42), known as the Trapezium Cluster. Directly in front of Messier 42 is a small grouping of hot O and B type stars known as the trapezium which shine between 5th and 8th magnitude. This grouping represents the 4 brightest members of an extended cluster of several thousand young stars many of which lie unseen within the opaque gas and dust. The bright trapezium grouping represents the cluster core where stars are packed so tight they exceed the stellar concentration of our suns vicinity some 20, 000 times.
© Robert Gendler/Stocktrek Images
Orion and Canis Major showing dog stars Sirius and Procyon
Orion and Canis Major, taking in Canis Minor as well, including the dog stars Sirius (lower) and Procyon (upper left). Around Orion you can see Barnard's Loop, as well as the Horsehead Nebula area below the Belt of Orion and the Orion Nebula in the Sword of Orion. Betelgeuse is at top left of Orion, Rigel at bottom right.
© Alan Dyer/Stocktrek Images