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.

December 7, 1996
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Planetary Systems Now Forming in Orion
C. R. O'Dell and S. K. Wong (Rice U.), WFPC2, HST, NASA,

Explanation: How do planets form? Astronomers are finding out by studying one of the most interesting of all astronomical nebulae known, the Great Nebula in Orion. Insets to above mosaic show several planetary systems in formation. The bottom left insert shows the relative size of our own Solar System. The Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Much of the filamentary structure visible in this image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. Some shock waves are visible near one of the bright stars in the lower left of the picture. The Orion Nebula is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as is our Sun.

Tomorrow's picture: Degas Ray Crater on Mercury

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