Image Tour: The Orion Nebula

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From massive stars carving away the dust and gas around them to star-forming regions to brown dwarfs, the Orion Nebula is an extremely active region.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Sonoma State University

  • Images of the Orion Nebula: STScI

Text, The Orion Nebula Image Tour
Fast Facts, Location, Constellation Orion (the Hunter). Distance from Earth, 1,500 light-years. Size, 13 light-years across. Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope
The Orion Nebula is a cavern of roiling dust and gas were thousands of stars are forming.
The energetic young stars tear up and transform their place of birth, spewing jets of hot gas, unleashing supersonic shock waves, and pouring forth stellar winds.
Tour Stop, Cavern. Much of the nebula has been sculpted by Stellar winds into a deep Bowl, its interior brightly illuminated by ionizing radiation.
The dark regions are the outermost layers of gas, the rim of the bowl
A layer of gas lays like a veil over the top of the cavern.
Tour Stop, Trapezium. The energy and stellar winds of four massive stars carve out a plunging cavity in the region called the Trapezium.
The flood of ultraviolet light disrupts the development of nearby smaller stars.
Tour Stop, Region M43. A young, massive star illuminates this region, called M43.
Like an Orion Nebula in miniature, this star is hollowing out its own cavity in the landscape of gas and dust.
Tour Stop, Pillars of Dust & Gas. Dark, dense pillars of dust and gas hang from the nebulas outer layers, resisting erosion from the intense ultraviolet light of Orion's biggest stars.
Pillars always point toward the stars that cause their erosion.
These pillars point to the massive stars in the Trapezium region.
Tour Stop, Arcs & Bubbles. The glowing region reveals arcs and bubbles formed by stellar winds - streams of charged particles ejected by stars.
These features form when a stellar wind carves into the gas and dust around stars.
The ionizing radiation from the stars causes them to glow.
Tour Stop, Brown Dwarfs. These faint red objects are brown dwarfs, cool objects too distant to sustain nuclear fusion in their cores.
Brown dwarfs are sometimes called "failed stars."
Tour Stop, Protoplanetary Disks. Solar systems like our own form from disks of gas and dust around stars.
A "protoplanetary disk" deep in the brilliant Trapezium region could someday give rise to planets.
Tour Stop, Bow Shock. Bright, arc-shaped shock waves called “bow shocks” appear when stellar winds collide with the surrounding gas.