NASA and ESA telescopes reveal the secrets of the Orion nebula

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has published a new infrared portrait of the Orion nebula. It demonstrates previously unknown details of this region and allows to shed light on the history of its origin.

Infrared portrait of the Orion nebula obtained by the Hershel, Spitzer and NEOWISE telescopes. Source: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Orion nebula is one of the regions of active star formation closest to Earth. Right now, thousands of new luminaries are forming in its depths. The nebula is located at a distance of only 1,350 light-years from Earth and can be seen in the night sky with the naked eye. All this makes it an extremely popular object for observation.

The area captured in the NASA image in the sky is located next to a group of stars perpendicular to the famous Orion belt. It is known as the Orion’s Sword. If we could see it with the naked eye, its angular dimensions would be comparable to the lunar disk.

The image of the nebula was compiled based on data collected by three NASA and ESA infrared telescopes – Hershel, Spitzer and NEOWISE. There are practically no stars visible on it, but you can see dust clouds in all the details.

The two huge “caves” dominating the photo were created by giant stars (they are not visible in this image). Their radiation scattered the surrounding dust clouds, creating vast cavities in them. The blue color (Herschel and NEOWISE data) corresponds to warm dust. The dust at the edges of the cavities is indicated in green, it is slightly colder. The red color (Spitzer data) indicates cold dust, which temperature reaches -260 °C. It is mostly located on the outskirts of the nebula, far from the birthplaces of stars.

Between the two cavities are orange filaments where the dust condenses. Over time, it may spawn new giant stars that will change the shape of the region again. 

Earlier, we published amazing images of the Orion nebula taken by the James Webb Telescope.

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