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Telescopes Optical Gallery

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Orion nebula Featured Telescopes Optical Print

Orion nebula

Orion nebula. Coloured composite infrared and visible light image of the Orion nebula M42. This emission nebula, a cloud of gas and dust in which starbirth takes place, is found in the constellation Orion, some 1500 light years from Earth. Glowing clouds of ionised hydrogen and sulphur gases are green, and cool clouds of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are orange and red. The gases are ionised by radiation from the four young Trapezium stars at the core (centre left). The small orange dots are embryonic stars, growing as they accumulate dust and gas. M42's neighbour, the M43 nebula, can also be seen (pale blue, top left). Infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, visible light data from the Hubble Space Telescope

© NASA/JPL-CALTECH/STSCI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

A Cosmic Magnifying Glass Featured Telescopes Optical Print

A Cosmic Magnifying Glass

Scanning the heavens for the first time since the successful December 1999 servicing mission, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope imaged a giant, cosmic magnifying glass, a massive cluster of galaxies called Abell 2218. This hefty cluster resides in the constellation Draco, some 2 billion light-years from Earth. The cluster is so massive that its enormous gravitational field deflects light rays passing through it, much as an optical lens bends light to form an image. This phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, magnifies, brightens, and distorts images from faraway objects. The cluster's magnifying powers provides a powerful "zoom lens" for viewing distant galaxies that could not normally be observed with the largest telescopes. The picture is dominated by spiral and elliptical galaxies. Resembling a string of tree lights, the biggest and brightest galaxies are members of the foreground cluster. Researchers are intrigued by a tiny red dot just left of top center. This dot may be an extremely remote object made visible by the cluster's magnifying powers. Further investigation is needed to confirm the object's identity. The color picture already reveals several arc-shaped features that are embedded in the cluster and cannot be easily seen in the black-and- white image. The colors in this picture yield clues to the ages, distances, and temperatures of stars, the stuff of galaxies. Blue pinpoints hot young stars. The yellow-white color of several of the galaxies represents the combined light of many stars. Red identifies cool stars, old stars, and the glow of stars in distant galaxies. This view is only possible by combining Hubble's unique image quality with the rare lensing effect provided by the magnifying cluster

© NASA

Orion nebula Featured Telescopes Optical Print

Orion nebula

Orion nebula, optical image. The Orion nebulacan be seen with the naked eye as a fuzzy patch inthe constellation Orion. It comprises severalnebulae, but the brightest is M42 (pink, lowercentre). M43 is the small round nebula at centreleft, separated from M42 by a thin blue band ofgas. These nebulae glow pink as the hydrogen theycontain is ionised by radiation from hot youngstars that recently formed inside them. In thecase of M42, the stars that light it up are agroup of four known as the Trapezium (centre). Theblue nebula NGC 1977 is at top. This nebula is notionised, instead reflecting the light of nearbyblue stars. The nebulae lie around 1500 lightyears from Earth

© Robert Gendler/Science Photo Library