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.

2007 January 25
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Orion's Cradle
Credit & Copyright Tony Hallas

Explanation: Cradled in glowing hydrogen, stellar nurseries in Orion lie at the edge of a giant molecular cloud some 1,500 light-years away. This breath-taking view spans about 13 degrees across the center of the well-known constellation with the Great Orion Nebula, the closest large star forming region, just right of center. The deep mosaic also includes (left of center), the Horsehead Nebula, the Flame Nebula, and Orion's belt stars. Image data acquired with a hydrogen alpha filter adds other remarkable features to this wide angle cosmic vista -- pervasive tendrils of energized atomic hydrogen gas and portions of the surrounding Barnard's Loop. While the Orion Nebula and belt stars are easy to see with the unaided eye, emission from the extensive interstellar gas is faint and much harder to record, even in telescopic views of the nebula-rich complex.

Tomorrow's picture: on the beach

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