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.

2002 December 20
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 the highest resolution version available.

Colorful Clouds of Orion
Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Explanation: Revisiting one of the most famous nebulae in planet Earth's night sky, astrophotographer Robert Gendler has constructed this stunning, color-enhanced mosaic of the region surrounding the Great Nebula in Orion. As seen here, the clouds of Orion are dominated by the reddish emission nebula M42 near the bottom of the image, with blue reflection nebulae, including NGC 1977, near the top. Strewn with dust lanes and dark nebulae, the striking cosmic apparitions surrounding Orion's stellar nurseries are about 1,500 light-years away and are themselves several light-years across. Located at the edge of a giant molecular cloud complex spanning hundreds of light-years, these nebulae represent only a small, but very visible(!), fraction of this region's wealth of interstellar material. Within these colorful clouds of Orion, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant solar systems.

Tomorrow's picture: Solstice Saturday

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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