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.

2011 September 13
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Great Orion Nebulae
Image Credit & Copyright: Jesús Vargas (Astrogades) & Maritxu Poyal (Maritxu)

Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulas in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful image that includes the smaller nebula M43 near center and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left. Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood's wealth of interstellar material. Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant planetary systems. The gorgeous skyscape spans nearly two degrees or about 45 light-years at the Orion Nebula's estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.

Tomorrow's picture: open space

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