Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2016 May 17
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The Orion Nebula in Visible and Infrared
Image Credit & Copyright: Infrared: NASA, Spitzer Space Telescope; Visible: Oliver Czernetz, Siding Spring Obs.

Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a colourful place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. Long exposure, multi-wavelength images like this, however, show the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighbourhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. This digital composite features not only three colours of visible light but four colours of infrared light taken by NASA's orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope as well. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. Many of the filamentary structures visible are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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