Telescopes Record New Babies on Orion

This magnificent picture is a composite of infrared and visible-light images taken from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes and shows stars being created 1,500 light-years away from Earth in a cosmic cloud called the Orion nebula. The Orion nebula is the brightest spot in the sword of the constellation Orion, or the “Hunter”, and is also our closest massive star-formation factory, containing perhaps more than 1,000 young stars. Orange-yellow dots revealed are actually infant stars deeply embedded in a cocoon of dust and gas. The four massive stars in the central yellow smudge at the cloud center are collectively called the Trapezium Cluster, which is prominent in the constellation Orion.

This image is actually a false color composite where light detected at particular wavelengths appears as certain colors. Various gases and stars exposed by the two different telescopes independently in different colors are visible in the composite. The green swirls are hydrogen and sulfur gas that have been heated and ionized by intense UV radiation from the Trapezium stars. The red and orange wisps are organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (present on burnt toast and in automobile exhaust) in the cloud that have been illuminated by the Trapezium stars. 

More detailed information on the Hubble-Spitzer Orion image may be found on NASA’s website.

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