- NASA’s powerful Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope have combined to capture stunning images of the Orion Nebula.
- The nebula, which is a massive mixture of various gases and heated matter surrounding young stars, was shot at different wavelengths.
- The image looks like a painting, but it’s actually a thing that exists, reminding us of how beautiful space can be.
Well, the new year has officially arrived, and while many places that traditionally celebrate the birth of a new 365-day batch have had to cancel their annual fireworks, you can still count on NASA to find the fires. fireworks somewhere in the cosmos. In a new blog post, NASA chose to highlight a stunning image that is actually the combination of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
The image is of the Orion Nebula, a massive collection of swirling gases surrounding very young but very large stars. Both telescopes captured the same image in different wavelengths of light, giving us a glimpse of this region of space like we’ve never seen it before.
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Nebulae are incredibly interesting features of the cosmos because they are essentially the ingredients that make up star systems and galaxies, but not yet fully merged into objects like planets and stars. In this case, the Orion Nebula has already given birth to a small number of stars, but they are very young.
Gaseous eddies of hydrogen, sulfur and hydrocarbons cradle a collection of nascent stars in this composite image of the Orion Nebula, seen by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Together, the two telescopes expose carbon-rich molecules in the cosmic cloud of this star-forming factory 1,500 light-years away.
Hubble’s visible ultraviolet view reveals gaseous hydrogen and sulfur that have been heated and ionized by intense ultraviolet radiation from massive stars, collectively known as the “trapezoid.” Meanwhile, Spitzer’s infrared view exposes carbon-rich molecules in the cloud. Together, the telescopes expose the stars of Orion as a rainbow of dots dotted throughout the image.
It is impossible to say what the next billion years will bring, but if the nebula remains untouched by outside forces, it will likely continue to form stars and, potentially, planets, moons and asteroids that will orbit them. We can’t know how much matter is actually present here, or what kind of planets and stars it might produce in the future, but for now it’s still a very interesting area of the sky.
Studying fields like this, and the Orion Nebula in particular, has offered scientists powerful information about the forces that build the objects we see in the cosmos. It will continue to be observed for many years, decades and maybe even centuries to come, and it will probably teach us much more.