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Astronomy Picture of the Day
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Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 November 28 - Leonid Meteors Through Orion
Explanation: Where will the next meteor appear? Even during a meteor shower, it is practically impossible to know. Therefore, a good way to enjoy a meteor shower is to find a place where you can sit comfortably and monitor a great expanse of dark sky. And it may be satisfying to share this experience with a friend. The meteor shower depicted was the 2022 Leonids which peaked earlier this month, and the view is from Hainan, China looking out over the South China Sea. Meteor streaks captured over a few hours were isolated and added to a foreground image recorded earlier. From this place and time, Leonid meteors that trace back to the constellation of Leo were seen streaking across other constellations including Orion. The bright red planet Mars appears near the top of the image. Bonding over their love of astronomy, the two pictured meteor enthusiasts, shown celebrating their common birthday this month, are now married.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 November 23 - Earthset from Orion
Explanation: Eight billion people are about to disappear in this snapshot from space. Taken on November 21, the sixth day of the Artemis 1 mission, their home world is setting behind the Moon's bright edge as viewed by an external camera on the outbound Orion spacecraft. The Orion was headed for a powered flyby that took it to within 130 kilometers of the lunar surface. Velocity gained in the flyby maneuver will be used to reach a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon. That orbit is considered distant because it's another 92,000 kilometers beyond the Moon, and retrograde because the spacecraft will orbit in the opposite direction of the Moon's orbit around planet Earth. Orion will enter its distant retrograde orbit on Friday, November 25. Swinging around the Moon, Orion will reach a maximum distance (just over 400,000 kilometers) from Earth on Monday November 28 exceeding a record set by Apollo 13 for most distant spacecraft designed for human space exploration.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 November 17 - Planet Earth from Orion
Explanation: A Space Launch System rocket left planet Earth on Wednesday, November 16 at 1:47am EST carrying the Orion spacecraft on the Artemis 1 mission, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems. Over an hour after liftoff from Kennedy Space Center's historic Launch Complex 39B, one of Orion's external video cameras captured this view of its new perspective from space. In the foreground are Orion's Orbital Maneuvering System engine and auxillary engines, at the bottom of the European Service Module. Beyond one of the module's 7-meter long extended solar array wings lies the spacecraft's beautiful home world. The Artemis 1 mission will last almost four weeks, testing capabilities to enable human exploration of the Moon and Mars. The uncrewed Orion spacecraft is expected to fly by the Moon on November 21, performing a close approach to the lunar surface on its way to a retrograde orbit 70,000 kilometers beyond the Moon.  

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 April 16 - Orion Pines
Explanation: Taken with a camera fixed to a tripod, many short exposures were aligned with the stars to unveil this beautiful, dark night sky. Captured near the rural village of Albany`a at the northeastern corner of Spain, the three stars of Orion's belt stretch across top center in the starry frame. Alnitak, the easternmost (left) of the belt stars is seen next to the more diffuse glow of the Flame Nebula and the dark notch of the famous Horsehead. Easily visible to the naked-eye The Great Nebula of Orion is below the belt stars. A mere 1,500 light-years distant, it is the closest large stellar nursery to our fair planet. Best seen in photographs, the broad and faint arc of Barnard's Loop seems to embrace Orion's brighter stars and nebulae though. In the northern spring the familiar northern winter constellation is setting. Near the western horizon toward lower right Orion's apparently bright blue supergiant Rigel just touches the branches of a pine tree.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 March 7 - A Lion in Orion
Explanation: Yes, but can you see the lion? A deep exposure shows the famous dark indentation that looks like a horse's head, visible just left and below center, and known unsurprisingly as the Horsehead Nebula. The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) is part of a vast complex of dark absorbing dust and bright glowing gas. To bring out details of the Horsehead's pasture, an astrophotographer artistically combined light accumulated for over 20 hours in hydrogen (orange), oxygen (blue), and sulfur (green). The resulting spectacular picture captured from Raachine, Lebanon, details an intricate tapestry of gaseous wisps and dust-laden filaments that were created and sculpted over eons by stellar winds and ancient supernovas. The featured composition brings up another pareidolic animal icon -- that of a lion's head -- in the expansive orange colored gas above the horse's head. The Flame Nebula is visible just to the left of the Horsehead. The Horsehead Nebula lies 1,500 light years distant towards the constellation of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 February 23 - Orion over Green Bank
Explanation: What will the huge Green Bank Telescope discover tonight? Pictured, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) on the lower right is the largest fully-pointable single-dish radio telescope in the world. With a central dish larger than a football field, the GBT is nestled in the hills of West Virginia, USA in a radio quiet zone where the use of cell phones, WiFi emitters, and even microwave ovens are limited. The GBT explores our universe not only during the night -- but during the day, too, since the daytime sky is typically dark in radio waves. Taken in late January, the featured image was planned for months to get the setting location of Orion just right. The image is a composite of a foreground shot taken over a kilometer away from the GBT, and a background shot built up of long exposures during the previous night. The deep background image of Orion is fitting because the GBT is famous for, among many discoveries, mapping the unusual magnetic field in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 January 27 - South of Orion
Explanation: South of the large star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula, lies bright blue reflection nebula NGC 1999. At the edge of the Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant, NGC 1999's illumination is provided by the embedded variable star V380 Orionis. The nebula is marked with a dark sideways T-shape at center right in this telescopic vista that spans about two full moons on the sky. Its dark shape was once assumed to be an obscuring dust cloud seen in silhouette. But infrared data suggest the shape is likely a hole blown through the nebula itself by energetic young stars. In fact, this region abounds with energetic young stars producing jets and outflows with luminous shock waves. Cataloged as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects, named for astronomers George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, the shocks have intense reddish hues. HH1 and HH2 are just below and right of NGC 1999. HH222, also known as the Waterfall nebula, looks like a red gash near top right in the frame. To create the shocks stellar jets push through the surrounding material at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2022 January 18 - From Orion to the Southern Cross
Explanation: This is a sky filled with glowing icons. On the far left is the familiar constellation of Orion, divided by its iconic three-aligned belt stars and featuring the famous Orion Nebula, both partly encircled by Barnard's Loop. Just left of center in the featured image is the brightest star in the night: Sirius. Arching across the image center is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. On the far right, near the top, are the two brightest satellite galaxies of the Milky Way: the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). Also on the far right -- just above the cloudy horizon -- is the constellation of Crux, complete with the four stars that make the iconic Southern Cross. The featured image is a composite of 18 consecutive exposures taken by the same camera and from the same location in eastern Australia during the last days of last year. In the foreground, picturesque basalt columns of the Bombo Quarry part to reveal the vast Pacific Ocean.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 October 6 - M43: Streams of Orion
Explanation: Where do the dark streams of dust in the Orion Nebula originate? This part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, M43, is the often imaged but rarely mentioned neighbor of the more famous M42. M42, seen in part to the upper right, includes many bright stars from the Trapezium star cluster. M43 is itself a star forming region that displays intricately-laced streams of dark dust -- although it is really composed mostly of glowing hydrogen gas. The entire Orion field is located about 1600 light years away. Opaque to visible light, the picturesque dark dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by strong outer winds of protons and electrons.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 July 7 - Flight Through the Orion Nebula in Infrared Light
Explanation: What would it look like to fly into the Orion Nebula? The exciting dynamic visualization of the Orion Nebula is based on real astronomical data and adept movie rendering techniques. Up close and personal with a famous stellar nursery normally seen from 1,500 light-years away, the digitally modeled representation based is based on infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. The perspective moves along a valley over a light-year wide, in the wall of the region's giant molecular cloud. Orion's valley ends in a cavity carved by the energetic winds and radiation of the massive central stars of the Trapezium star cluster. The entire Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 June 29 - Orion Nebula: The Hubble View
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula's energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view - providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. The featured image of the Orion Nebula is among the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The entire Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 June 1 - Satellites over Orion
Explanation: What are those streaks across Orion? They are reflections of sunlight from numerous Earth-orbiting satellites. Appearing by eye as a series of successive points floating across a twilight sky, the increasing number of communications satellites, including SpaceX Starlink satellites, are causing concern among many astronomers. On the positive side, Starlink and similar constellations make the post-sunset sky more dynamic, satellite-based global communications faster, and help provide digital services to currently underserved rural areas. On the negative side, though, these low Earth-orbit satellites make some deep astronomical imaging programs more difficult, in particular observing programs that need images taken just after sunset and just before dawn. Planned future satellite arrays that function in higher orbits may impact investigations of the deep universe planned for large ground-based telescopes at any time during the night. The streaks across Orion are not from Starlink but rather satellites in high geosynchronous orbit. The featured picture, taken in 2019 December, is a digital combination of over 65 3-minutes exposures, with some images taken to highlight the background Orion Nebula, while others to feature the passing satellites.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 May 11 - Lightning and Orion Beyond Uluru
Explanation: What's happening behind Uluru? A United Nations World Heritage Site, Uluru is an extraordinary 350-meter high mountain in central Australia that rises sharply from nearly flat surroundings. Composed of sandstone, Uluru has slowly formed over the past 300 million years as softer rock eroded away. In the background of the featured image taken in mid-May, a raging thunderstorm is visible. Far behind both Uluru and the thunderstorm is a star-filled sky highlighted by the constellation of Orion. The Uluru region has been a home to humans for over 22,000 years. Local indigenous people have long noted that when the stars that compose the modern constellation of Orion first appear in the night sky, a hot season involving lightning storms will soon be arriving.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 May 9 - Horsehead and Orion Nebulas
Explanation: The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right. Immediately to its left is a prominent reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2021 March 22 - From Auriga to Orion
Explanation: What's up in the sky from Auriga to Orion? Many of the famous stars and nebulas in this region were captured on 34 separate images, taking over 430 hours of exposure, and digitally combined to reveal the featured image. Starting on the far upper left, toward the constellation of Auriga (the Chariot driver), is the picturesque Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405). Continuing down along the bright arc of our Milky Way Galaxy, from left to right crossing the constellations of the Twins and the Bull, notable appearing nebulas include the Tadpole, Simeis 147, Monkey Head, Jellyfish, Cone and Rosette nebulas. In the upper right quadrant of the image, toward the constellation of Orion (the hunter), you can see Sh2-264, the half-circle of Barnard's Loop, and the Horsehead and Orion nebulas. Famous stars in and around Orion include, from left to right, orange Betelgeuse (just right of the image center), blue Bellatrix (just above it), the Orion belt stars of Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak, while bright Rigel appears on the far upper right. This stretch of sky won't be remaining up in the night very long -- it will be setting continually earlier in the evening as mid-year approaches.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 November 26 - The Great Turkey Nebula
Explanation: Surprisingly reminiscent of The Great Nebula in Orion, The Great Turkey Nebula spans this creative field of view. Of course if it were the Orion Nebula it would be our closest large stellar nursery, found at the edge of a large molecular cloud a mere 1,500 light-years away. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula is visible to the eye as the middle "star" in the sword of Orion the Hunter, a constellation now rising in planet Earth's evening skies. Stellar winds from clusters of newborn stars scattered throughout the Orion Nebula sculpt its ridges and cavities seen in familiar in telescopic images. Much larger than any bird you might be cooking, this Great Turkey Nebula was imagined to be similar in size to the Orion Nebula, about 13 light-years across. Stay safe and well.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 November 12 - Comet ATLAS and Orion's Belt
Explanation: With its closest approach to planet Earth scheduled for November 14, this Comet ATLAS (C/2020 M3) was discovered just this summer, another comet found by the NASA funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System. It won't get as bright as Comet NEOWISE but it can still be spotted using binoculars, as it currently sweeps through the familiar constellation of Orion. This telephoto field from November 8, blends exposures registered on the comet with exposures registered on Orion's stars. It creates an effectively deep skyview that shows colors and details you can't quite see though, even in binoculars. The comet's telltale greenish coma is toward the upper left, above Orion's three belt stars lined-up across the frame below center. You'll also probably spot the Orion Nebula, and famous Horsehead Nebula in the stunning field of view. Of course one of Orion's belt stars is nearly 2,000 light-years away. On November 14, this comet ATLAS will fly a mere 2.9 light-minutes from Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 November 5 - North of Orion's Belt
Explanation: Bright stars, interstellar clouds of dust and glowing nebulae fill this cosmic scene, a skyscape just north of Orion's belt. Close to the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, the wide field view spans just under 5 degrees or about 10 full moons on the sky. Striking bluish M78, a reflection nebula, is at the lower right. M78's tint is due to dust preferentially reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars. In colorful contrast, the red swath of glowing hydrogen gas streaming through the center is part of the region's faint but extensive emission nebula known as Barnard's Loop. At upper left, a dark dust cloud forms a prominent silhouette cataloged as LDN 1622. While M78 and the complex Barnard's Loop are some 1,500 light-years away, LDN 1622 is likely to be much closer, only about 500 light-years distant from our fair planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 October 4 - Orion Nebula in Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Sulfur
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud. Many of the filamentary structures visible in the featured image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The image shows the nebula in three colors specifically emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur gas. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 September 19 - Orion in Depth
Explanation: Orion is a familiar constellation. The apparent positions of its stars in two dimensions create a well-known pattern on the bowl of planet Earth's night sky. Orion may not look quite so familiar in this 3D view though. The illustration reconstructs the relative positions of Orion's bright stars, including data from the Hipparcus catalog of parallax distances. The most distant star shown is Alnilam. The middle one in the projected line of three that make up Orion's belt when viewed from planet Earth, Alnilam is nearly 2,000 light-years away, almost 3 times as far as fellow belt stars Alnitak and Mintaka. Though Rigel and Betelgeuse apparently shine brighter in planet Earth's sky, that makes more distant Alnilam intrinsically (in absolute magnitude) the brightest of the familiar stars in Orion. In the Hipparcus catalog, errors in measured parallaxes for Orion's stars can translate in to distance errors of a 100 light-years or so.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 August 28 - The Valley of Orion
Explanation: This exciting and unfamiliar view of the Orion Nebula is a visualization based on astronomical data and movie rendering techniques. Up close and personal with a famous stellar nursery normally seen from 1,500 light-years away, the digitally modeled frame transitions from a visible light representation based on Hubble data on the left to infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope on the right. The perspective at the center looks along a valley over a light-year wide, in the wall of the region's giant molecular cloud. Orion's valley ends in a cavity carved by the energetic winds and radiation of the massive central stars of the Trapezium star cluster. The single frame is part of a multiwavelength, three-dimensional video that lets the viewer experience an immersive, three minute flight through the Great Nebula of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 July 6 - M43: Dust, Gas, and Stars in the Orion Nebula
Explanation: Unspeakable beauty and unimaginable bedlam can be found together in the Orion Nebula Arguably the most famous of all astronomy nebulas, the Great Nebula in Orion is an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the featured deep image shown in assigned colors, the part of the nebula's center known as M43 is shown as taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The entire Orion Nebula, including both M42 and M43 spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 June 9 - Orion over Argentine Mountains
Explanation: Do you recognize the constellation of Orion? It may be harder than usual in today's featured image because the camera has zoomed in on the center, and the exposure is long enough to enhance nebulas beyond what the unaided human eye can see. Still, once you become oriented, you can see Orion's three belt stars lined up vertically near the image center, and even locate the familiar Orion Nebula on the upper left. Famous faint features that are also visible include the dark Horsehead Nebula indentation near the image center, and the dusty Flame Nebula just to its right. Part of the Orion-encircling Barnard's Loop can also be found on the far right. The image combines multiple sky-tracking shots of the background in different colors with a single static foreground exposure taken at twilight -- all captured with the same camera and from the same location. The picturesque scene was captured early last year from mountains in San Juan, Argentina.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 March 29 - A 212 Hour Exposure of Orion
Explanation: The constellation of Orion is much more than three stars in a row. It is a direction in space that is rich with impressive nebulas. To better appreciate this well-known swath of sky, an extremely long exposure was taken over many clear nights in 2013 and 2014. After 212 hours of camera time and an additional year of processing, the featured 1400-exposure collage spanning over 40 times the angular diameter of the Moon emerged. Of the many interesting details that have become visible, one that particularly draws the eye is Barnard's Loop, the bright red circular filament arcing down from the middle. The Rosette Nebula is not the giant red nebula near the top of the image -- that is a larger but lesser known nebula known as Lambda Orionis. The Rosette Nebula is visible, though: it is the red and white nebula on the upper left. The bright orange star just above the frame center is Betelgeuse, while the bright blue star on the lower right is Rigel. Other famous nebulas visible include the Witch Head Nebula, the Flame Nebula, the Fox Fur Nebula, and, if you know just where to look, the comparatively small Horsehead Nebula. About those famous three stars that cross the belt of Orion the Hunter -- in this busy frame they can be hard to locate, but a discerning eye will find them just below and to the right of the image center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 February 21 - LDN 1622: Dark Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The silhouette of an intriguing dark nebula inhabits this cosmic scene. Lynds' Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas only visible in long telescopic exposures of the region. In contrast, the brighter reflection nebula vdB 62 is more easily seen, just above and right of center. LDN 1622 lies near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, close on the sky to Barnard's Loop, a large cloud surrounding the rich complex of emission nebulae found in the Belt and Sword of Orion. With swept-back outlines, the obscuring dust of LDN 1622 is thought to lie at a similar distance, perhaps 1,500 light-years away. At that distance, this 1 degree wide field of view would span about 30 light-years. Young stars do lie hidden within the dark expanse and have been revealed in Spitzer Space telescope infrared images. Still, the foreboding visual appearance of LDN 1622 inspires its popular name, the Boogeyman Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 February 18 - Orion over the Central Bohemian Highlands
Explanation: Do you recognize this constellation? Setting past the Central Bohemian Highlands in the Czech Republic is Orion, one of the most identifiable star groupings on the sky and an icon familiar to humanity for over 30,000 years. Orion has looked pretty much the same during this time and should continue to look the same for many thousands of years into the future. Prominent Orion is high in the sky at sunset this time of year, a recurring sign of (modern) winter in Earth's northern hemisphere and summer in the south. The featured picture is a composite of over thirty images taken from the same location and during the same night last month. Below and slightly to the left of Orion's three-star belt is the Orion Nebula, while four of the bright stars surrounding the belt are, clockwise, Sirius (far left, blue), Betelgeuse (top, orange, unusually faint), Aldebaran (far right), and Rigel (below). As future weeks progress, Orion will set increasingly earlier.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2020 January 20 - Quadrantid Meteors through Orion
Explanation: Why are these meteor trails nearly parallel? Because they were all shed by the same space rock and so can be traced back to the same direction on the sky: the radiant of the Quadrantid Meteor Shower. This direction used to be toward the old constellation of Quadrans Muralis, hence the name Quadrantids, but when the International Astronomical Union formulated its list of modern constellations in 1922, this constellation did not make the list. Even though the meteors are now considered to originate from the recognized constellation of Bootes, the old name stuck. Regardless of the designation, every January the Earth moves through a dust stream and bits of this dust glow as meteors as they heat up in Earth's atmosphere. The featured image composite was taken on January 4 with a picturesque snowy Slovakian landscape in the foreground, and a deep-exposure sky prominently featuring the constellation Orion in the background. The red star Betelgeuse appears unusually dim -- its fading over the past few months is being tracked by astronomers.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 November 22 - Orion Rising
Explanation: Looking toward the east in the early hours of a September morning this single exposure made with tripod and camera captured a simple visual experience. Rising above the tree-lined slope are familiar stars in planet Earth's northern night and the constellation Orion the Hunter. Brighter stars marking the celestial Hunter's shoulder (Betelgeuse), foot (Rigel), belt, and sword are clearly reflected in the calm waters from northern Latvia's Vitrupe river. Of course, winter is coming to planet Earth's northern hemisphere. By then Orion and this beautiful starry vista will be seen rising in early evening skies.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 October 30 - M42: Inside the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the featured deep image in assigned colors highlighted by emission in oxygen and hydrogen, wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain much hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 September 30 - Orion Rising over Brazil
Explanation: Have you seen Orion lately? The next few months will be the best for seeing this familiar constellation as it rises continually earlier in the night. However, Orion's stars and nebulas won't look quite as colorful to the eye as they do in this fantastic camera image. In the featured image, Orion was captured by camera showing its full colors last month over a Brazilian copal tree from Brazil's Central-West Region. Here the cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a strong orange hue as the brightest star on the far left. Otherwise, Orion's hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse at the upper right, Bellatrix at the upper left, and Saiph at the lower right. Lined up in Orion's belt (bottom to top) are Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka all about 1,500 light-years away, born of the constellation's well studied interstellar clouds. And if a "star" toward the upper right Orion's sword looks reddish and fuzzy to you, it should. It's the stellar nursery known as the Great Nebula of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 31 - Spitzer's Orion
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. Spanning about 40 light-years across the region, this infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope was constructed from data intended to monitor the brightness of the nebula's young stars, many still surrounded by dusty, planet-forming disks. Orion's young stars are only about 1 million years old, compared to the Sun's age of 4.6 billion years. The region's hottest stars are found in the Trapezium Cluster, the brightest cluster near picture center. Launched into orbit around the Sun on August 25, 2003 Spitzer's liquid helium coolant ran out in May 2009. The infrared space telescope continues to operate though, its mission scheduled to end on January 30, 2020. Recorded in 2010, this false color view is from two channels that still remain sensitive to infrared light at Spitzer's warmer operating temperatures.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 21 - The Orion You Can Almost See
Explanation: Do you recognize this constellation? Although it is one of the most recognizable star groupings on the sky, this is a more full Orion than you can see -- an Orion only revealed with long exposure digital camera imaging and post-processing. Here the cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a strong orange tint as the brightest star at the lower left. Orion's hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse on the upper right, and Bellatrix at the upper left. Lined up in Orion's belt are three stars all about 1,500 light-years away, born from the constellation's well-studied interstellar clouds. To the right of Orion's belt is a bright but fuzzy patch that might also look familiar -- the stellar nursery known as Orion's Nebula. Finally, just barely visible to the unaided eye but quite striking here is Barnard's Loop -- a huge gaseous emission nebula surrounding Orion's Belt and Nebula discovered over 100 years ago by the pioneering Orion photographer E. E. Barnard.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 August 17 - 1901 Photograph: The Orion Nebula
Explanation: By the turn of the 20th century advances in photography contributed an important tool for astronomers. Improving photographic materials, long exposures, and new telescope designs produced astronomical images with details not visible at the telescopic eyepiece alone. Remarkably recognizable to astrophotographers today, this stunning image of the star forming Orion Nebula was captured in 1901 by American astronomer and telescope designer George Ritchey. The original glass photographic plate, sensitive to green and blue wavelengths, has been digitized and light-to-dark inverted to produce a positive image. His hand written notes indicate a 50 minute long exposure that ended at dawn and a reflecting telescope aperture of 24 inches masked to 18 inches to improve the sharpness of the recorded image. Ritchey's plates from over a hundred years ago preserve astronomical data and can still be used for exploring astrophysical processes.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 June 5 - The Interstellar Clouds of Orion
Explanation: The constellation of Orion is much more than three stars in a row. It is a direction in space that is rich with impressive nebulas. To better appreciate this well-known swath of sky, a new long exposure image was taken over several clear nights in January, February and March. After 23 hours of camera time and untold hours of image processing, the featured collage in the light of hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur was produced spanning over 40 times the angular diameter of the Moon. Of the many interesting details that have become visible, one that particularly draws the eye is Barnard's Loop, the bright red orange arc just to the right of the image center. The Rosette Nebula is not the giant orange nebula just to the left of the image center -- that is larger but lesser known nebula known as the Meissa Ring. The Rosette Nebula is visible, though: it is the bright orange, blue and white nebula near the image bottom. The bright orange star just left of the frame center is Betelgeuse, while the bright blue star on the upper right is Rigel. About those famous three stars that cross the belt of Orion the Hunter -- in this busy frame they can be hard to locate, but a discerning eye will find them just to the right of the image center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 March 18 - Horsehead and Orion Nebulas
Explanation: The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning two-panel mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud on the lower left, a small silhouette notched against the glow of hydrogen (alpha) gas, here tinted orange. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and can be found to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right, surrounded by the blue glow of reflecting dust. Immediately to its left is a prominent reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 March 3 - The Orion Bullets
Explanation: Why are bullets of gas shooting out of the Orion Nebula? Nobody is yet sure. First discovered in 1983, each bullet is actually about the size of our Solar System, and moving at about 400 km/sec from a central source dubbed IRc2. The age of the bullets, which can be found from their speed and distance from IRc2, is very young -- typically less than 1,000 years. As the bullets expand out the top of the Kleinmann-Low section of the Orion Nebula, a small percentage of iron gas causes the tip of each bullet to glow blue, while each bullet leaves a tubular pillar that glows by the light of heated hydrogen gas. The detailed image was created using the 8.1 meter Gemini South telescope in Chile with an adaptive optics system (GeMS). GeMS uses five laser generated guide stars to help compensate for the blurring effects of planet Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 February 27 - Magnetic Orion
Explanation: Can magnetism affect how stars form? Recent analysis of Orion data from the HAWC+ instrument on the airborne SOFIA observatory indicate that, at times, it can. HAWC+ is able to measure the polarization of far-infrared light which can reveal the alignment of dust grains by expansive ambient magnetic fields. In the featured image, these magnetic fields are shown as curvy lines superposed on an infrared image of the Orion Nebula taken by a Very Large Telescope in Chile. Orion's Kleinmann-Low Nebula is visible slightly to the upper right of the image center, while bright stars of the Trapezium cluster are visible just to the lower left of center. The Orion Nebula at about l300 light years distant is the nearest major star formation region to the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 February 2 - LDN 1622: Dark Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The silhouette of an intriguing dark nebula inhabits this cosmic scene. Lynds' Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas only easily seen in long telescopic exposures of the region. LDN 1622 lies near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, close on the sky to Barnard's Loop, a large cloud surrounding the rich complex of emission nebulae found in the Belt and Sword of Orion. But the obscuring dust of LDN 1622 is thought to be much closer than Orion's more famous nebulae, perhaps only 500 light-years away. At that distance, this 1 degree wide field of view would span less than 10 light-years. Its foreboding appearance lends this dark expanse a popular name, the Boogeyman Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 January 23 - Orion over the Austrian Alps
Explanation: Do you recognize this constellation? Through the icicles and past the mountains is Orion, one of the most identifiable star groupings on the sky and an icon familiar to humanity for over 30,000 years. Orion has looked pretty much the same during the past 50,000 years and should continue to look the same for many thousands of years into the future. Orion is quite prominent in the sky this time of year, a recurring sign of (modern) winter in Earth's northern hemisphere and summer in the south. Pictured, Orion was captured recently above the Austrian Alps in a composite of seven images taken by the same camera in the same location during the same night. Below and slightly to the right of Orion's three-star belt is the Orion Nebula, while the four bright stars surrounding the belt are, clockwise from the upper left, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel, and Saiph.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2019 January 2 - The Orion Nebula in Infrared from WISE
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is an intriguing place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. But this image, an illusory-color four-panel mosaic taken in different bands of infrared light with the Earth orbiting WISE observatory, shows the Orion Nebula to be a bustling neighborhood of recently formed stars, hot gas, and dark dust. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the stars of the Trapezium star cluster, seen near the center of the featured image. The orange glow surrounding the bright stars pictured here is their own starlight reflected by intricate dust filaments that cover much of the region. The current Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 December 12 - M43: Orion Falls
Explanation: Is there a waterfall in Orion? No, but some of the dust in M43 appears similar to a waterfall on Earth. M43, part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, is the often imaged but rarely mentioned neighbor of the more famous M42. M42, which includes many bright stars from the Trapezium cluster, lies above the featured scene. M43 is itself a star forming region and although laced with filaments of dark dust, is composed mostly of glowing hydrogen. The entire Orion field, located about 1600 light years away, is inundated with many intricate and picturesque filaments of dust. Opaque to visible light, dark dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong outer wind of protons and electrons.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 November 30 - A Cold River to Orion
Explanation: Ice is forming on the river Lielupe as it flows through the landscape in this winter's night scene. Even in motion the frigid water still reflects a starry sky, though. The well planned, Orion-centered panorama looks toward the south, taken in three exposures from a bridge near the village of Stalgene, Latvia, planet Earth. Drifting pancakes of ice leave streaks in the long exposures, while familiar stars of Orion and the northern winter night appear above and below the horizon. Village lights along the horizon include skyward beams from the local community church. This image was a first place winner in the 2018 StarSpace astrophotography competition.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 October 14 - Orion in Red and Blue
Explanation: When did Orion become so flashy? This colorful rendition of part of the constellation of Orion comes from red light emitted by hydrogen and sulfur (SII), and blue-green light emitted by oxygen (OIII). Hues on the featured image were then digitally reassigned to be indicative of their elemental origins -- but also striking to the human eye. The breathtaking composite was painstakingly composed from hundreds of images which took nearly 200 hours to collect. Pictured, Barnard's Loop, across the image bottom, appears to cradle interstellar constructs including the intricate Orion Nebula seen just right of center. The Flame Nebula can also be quickly located, but it takes a careful eye to identify the slight indentation of the dark Horsehead Nebula. As to Orion's flashiness -- a leading explanation for the origin of Barnard's Loop is a supernova blast that occurred about two million years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 August 5 - Trapezium: At the Heart of Orion
Explanation: Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a recent dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1,500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 March 21 - Camera Orion
Explanation: Do you recognize this constellation? Although it is one of the most recognizable star groupings on the sky, Orion's icons don't look quite as colorful to the eye as they do to a camera. In this 20-image digitally-composed mosaic, cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a strong orange tint as the brightest star at the upper left. Orion's hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse at the lower right, and Bellatrix at the upper right Lined up in Orion's belt are three stars all about 1,500 light-years away, born from the constellation's well-studied interstellar clouds. Below Orion's belt a reddish and fuzzy patch that might also look familiar -- the stellar nursery known as Orion's Nebula. Finally, just barely visible to the unaided eye but quite striking here by camera is Barnard's Loop -- a huge gaseous emission nebula surrounding Orion's Belt and Nebula discovered over 100 years ago by the pioneering Orion photographer E. E. Barnard.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 February 18 - LL Ori and the Orion Nebula
Explanation: Stars can make waves in the Orion Nebula's sea of gas and dust. This esthetic close-up of cosmic clouds and stellar winds features LL Orionis, interacting with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged Sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The small, arcing, graceful structure just above and left of center is LL Ori's cosmic bow shock, measuring about half a light-year across. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula's hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the upper left corner of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori's wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the "bottom" edge. This beautiful painting-like photograph is part of a large mosaic view of the complex stellar nursery in Orion, filled with a myriad of fluid shapes associated with star formation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2018 January 17 - In the Valley of Orion
Explanation: This exciting and unfamiliar view of the Orion Nebula is a visualization based on astronomical data and movie rendering techniques. Up close and personal with a famous stellar nursery normally seen from 1,500 light-years away, the digitally modeled frame transitions from a visible light representation based on Hubble data on the left to infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope on the right. The perspective at the center looks along a valley over a light-year wide, in the wall of the region's giant molecular cloud. Orion's valley ends in a cavity carved by the energetic winds and radiation of the massive central stars of the Trapezium star cluster. The single frame is part of a multiwavelength, three-dimensional video that lets the viewer experience an immersive, three minute flight through the Great Nebula of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 November 29 - M42: The Great Orion Nebula
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud. Many of the filamentary structures visible in the featured image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The featured image, taken last month, shows a two-hour exposure of the nebula in three colors. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 October 30 - Orionid Meteors from Orion
Explanation: Meteors have been shooting out from the constellation of Orion. This was expected, as October is the time of year for the Orionids Meteor Shower. Pictured here, over a dozen meteors were caught in successively added exposures last weekend over Wulan Hada volcano in Inner Mongolia, China. The featured image shows multiple meteor streaks that can all be connected to a single small region on the sky called the radiant, here visible just above and to the left of the belt of Orion, The Orionids meteors started as sand sized bits expelled from Comet Halley during one of its trips to the inner Solar System. Comet Halley is actually responsible for two known meteor showers, the other known as the Eta Aquarids and visible every May. Next month, the Leonids Meteor Shower from Comet Tempel-Tuttle should also result in some bright meteor streaks.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 September 18 - Orion above Easter Island
Explanation: Why were the statues on Easter Island built? No one is sure. What is sure is that over 800 large stone statues exist there. The Easter Island statues, stand, on the average, over twice as tall as a person and have over 200 times as much mass. Few specifics are known about the history or meaning of the unusual rock sculptures, but many believe that they were created about 700 years ago in the images of local leaders of a lost civilization. Featured here, one of the ancient Moai sculptures was imaged in 2016 before the constellation of Orion, including the famous line of three belt stars and brilliant stars Betelgeuse (far left in red) and Rigel (upper center). The stone giant appears, however, to be inspecting the brightest star in the night sky (far right): Sirius.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 June 4 - Orion: Belt, Flame, and Horsehead
Explanation: What surrounds the famous belt stars of Orion? A deep exposure shows everything from dark nebula to star clusters, all embedded in an extended patch of gaseous wisps in the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The brightest three stars, appearing diagonally on the left of the featured image are indeed the famous three stars that make up the belt of Orion. Just below Alnitak, the lowest of the three belt stars, is the Flame Nebula, glowing with excited hydrogen gas and immersed in filaments of dark brown dust. Just to the right of Alnitak lies the Horsehead Nebula, a dark indentation of dense dust that has perhaps the most recognized nebular shapes on the sky. The dark molecular cloud, roughly 1,500 light years distant, is cataloged as Barnard 33 and is seen primarily because it is backlit by the nearby massive star Sigma Orionis. The Horsehead Nebula will slowly shift its apparent shape over the next few million years and will eventually be destroyed by the high-energy starlight.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 March 21 - Fast Stars and Rogue Planets in the Orion Nebula
Explanation: Start with the constellation of Orion. Below Orion's belt is a fuzzy area known as the Great Nebula of Orion. In this nebula is a bright star cluster known as the Trapezium, marked by four bright stars near the image center. The newly born stars in the Trapezium and surrounding regions show the Orion Nebula to be one of the most active areas of star formation to be found in our area of the Galaxy. In Orion, supernova explosions and close interactions between stars have created rogue planets and stars that rapidly move through space. Some of these fast stars have been found by comparing different images of this region taken by the Hubble Space Telescope many years apart. Many of the stars in the featured image, taken in visible and near-infrared light, appear unusually red because they are seen through dust that scatters away much of their blue light.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 March 12 - At the Heart of Orion
Explanation: Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Tightly gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1,500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 March 8 - Dust, Gas, and Stars in the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, filaments of dark dust and glowing gas surround hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the featured deep image shown in assigned colors, part of the nebula's center is shown as taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain much hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42 and M43, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 24 - M78 and Orion Dust Reflections
Explanation: In the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex, several bright blue nebulas are particularly apparent. Pictured here are two of the most prominent reflection nebulas - dust clouds lit by the reflecting light of bright embedded stars. The more famous nebula is M78, in the image center, cataloged over 200 years ago. To its left is the lesser known NGC 2071. Astronomers continue to study these reflection nebulas to better understand how interior stars form. The Orion complex lies about 1500 light-years distant, contains the Orion and Horsehead nebulas, and covers much of the constellation of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2017 January 16 - Geostationary Highway through Orion
Explanation: Put a satellite in a circular orbit about 42,000 kilometers from the center of the Earth and it will orbit once in 24 hours. Because that matches Earth's rotation period, it is known as a geosynchronous orbit. If that orbit is also in the plane of the equator, the satellite will hang in the sky over a fixed location in a geostationary orbit. As predicted in the 1940s by futurist Arthur C. Clarke, geostationary orbits are in common use for communication and weather satellites, a scenario now well-known to astroimagers. Deep images of the night sky made with telescopes that follow the stars can also pick up geostationary satellites glinting in sunlight still shining far above the Earth's surface. Because they all move with the Earth's rotation against the background of stars, the satellites leave trails that seem to follow a highway across the celestial landscape. The phenomenon was captured last month in this video showing several satellites in geostationary orbit crossing the famous Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 December 4 - Official Star Names for Orion
Explanation: Familiar stars in Orion and constellations across the sky now have official names. Over the past year, the International Astronomical Union, the only body officially tasked with naming stars, approved names already in common use for 227 of the brightest stars, including the most famous stars on the sky Sirius, Polaris, and Betelgeuse. Pictured, the constellation of Orion is shown with several of these now-official star names superposed. Spanning about 30 degrees, this breath-taking vista stretches across the well-known constellation from head to toe (left to right) and beyond. The common names for all three stars in Orion's belt are also now official. At 1,500 light years away, the Great Orion Nebula is the closest large star forming region, here visible just right and below center. Also visible are famous nebulae including the Horsehead Nebula and the Witch Head Nebula. Of course, the Orion Nebula and bright stars are easy to see with the unaided eye, but dust clouds and emission from the extensive interstellar gas in this nebula-rich complex, are too faint and much harder to record. In the featured mosaic of broadband telescopic images, additional image data acquired with a narrow hydrogen alpha filter was used to bring out the pervasive tendrils of energized atomic hydrogen gas like in the arc of the giant Barnard's Loop.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 October 14 - Herschel's Orion
Explanation: This dramatic image peers within M42, the Orion Nebula, the closest large star-forming region. Using data at infrared wavelengths from the Herschel Space Observatory, the false-color composite explores the natal cosmic cloud a mere 1,500 light-years distant. Cold, dense filaments of dust that would otherwise be dark at visible wavelengths are shown in reddish hues. Light-years long, the filaments weave together bright spots that correspond to regions of collapsing protostars. The brightest bluish area near the top of the frame is warmer dust heated by the hot Trapezium cluster stars that also power the nebula's visible glow. Herschel data has recently indicated ultraviolet starlight from the hot newborn stars likely contributes to the creation of carbon-hydrogen molecules, basic building blocks of life. This Herschel image spans about 3 degrees on the sky. That's about 80 light-years at the distance of the Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 July 18 - The Orion Nebula in Infrared from HAWK I
Explanation: The deepest infrared image of the Orion Nebula has uncovered a bonanza of previously unknown low-mass stars and -- quite possibly -- free floating planets. The picturesque nebula is best known in visible light where it shows a many bright stars and bright glowing gas. Catalogued as M42, the Orion Nebula at a distance of 1300 light years is the closest major star forming region to Earth. One can peer into Orion's pervasive dust in infrared light, as was done again recently with the sophisticated HAWK-I camera attached to one of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescopes in the high mountains of Chile. High resolution versions of the featured infrared deep image show many points of light, many of which are surely brown dwarf stars but some of which are best fit by an unexpectedly high abundance of free-floating planets. Understanding how these low mass objects formed is important to understanding star formation generally and may even help humanity to better understand the early years of our Solar System.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 May 17 - The Orion Nebula in Visible and Infrared
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a colorful place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. Long exposure, multi-wavelength images like this, however, show the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. This digital composite features not only three colors of visible light but four colors of infrared light taken by NASA's orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope as well. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. Many of the filamentary structures visible are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 April 13 - Orion in Red and Blue
Explanation: When did Orion become so flashy? This colorful rendition of part of the constellation of Orion comes from red light emitted by hydrogen and sulfur (SII), and blue-green light emitted by oxygen (OIII). Hues on the featured image were then digitally reassigned to be indicative of their elemental origins -- but also striking to the human eye. The breathtaking composite was painstakingly composed from hundreds of images which took nearly 200 hours to collect. Pictured, Barnard's Loop, across the image bottom, appears to cradle interstellar constructs including the intricate Orion Nebula seen just right of center. The Flame Nebula can also be quickly located, but it takes a careful eye to identify the slight indentation of the dark Horsehead Nebula. As to Orion's flashiness -- a leading explanation for the origin of Barnard's Loop is a supernova blast that occurred about two million years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 March 28 - Orion's Belt and Sword over Teide's Peak
Explanation: The southern part of Orion, the famous constellation and mythical hunter, appears quite picturesque posing here over a famous volcano. Located in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa, the snow-peaked Teide is one of the largest volcanoes on Earth. Lights from a group planning to summit Teide before dawn are visible below the volcano's peak. In this composite of exposures taken from the same location one night last month, the three iconic belt stars of Orion are seen just above the peak, while the famous Orion Nebula and the rest of Orion's sword are visible beyond the volcano's left slope. Also visible in the long duration sky image are the Horsehead Nebula, seen as a dark indentation on the red emission nebula to the belt's left, and the Flame Nebula, evident just above and to the right of the Horsehead.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2016 January 13 - Reflections on the 1970s
Explanation: The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers, like this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion - NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 - usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion's sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. In this sharp color image a portion of the Orion Nebula appears along the bottom border with the cluster of reflection nebulae at picture center. NGC 1977 stretches across the field just below center, separated from NGC 1973 (above right) and NGC 1975 (above left) by dark regions laced with faint red emission from hydrogen atoms. Taken together, the dark regions suggest to many the shape of a running man.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 December 29 - Dust of the Orion Nebula
Explanation: What surrounds a hotbed of star formation? In the case of the Orion Nebula -- dust. The entire Orion field, located about 1600 light years away, is inundated with intricate and picturesque filaments of dust. Opaque to visible light, dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong outer wind of particles. The Trapezium and other forming star clusters are embedded in the nebula. The intricate filaments of dust surrounding M42 and M43 appear brown in the featured image, while central glowing gas is highlighted in red. Over the next few million years much of Orion's dust will be slowly destroyed by the very stars now being formed, or dispersed into the Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 23 - A 212 Hour Exposure of Orion
Explanation: The constellation of Orion is much more than three stars in a row. It is a direction in space that is rich with impressive nebulas. To better appreciate this well-known swath of sky, an extremely long exposure was taken over many clear nights in 2013 and 2014. After 212 hours of camera time and an additional year of processing, the featured 1400-exposure collage spanning over 40 times the angular diameter of the Moon emerged. Of the many interesting details that have become visible, one that particularly draws the eye is Barnard's Loop, the bright red circular filament arcing down from the middle. The Rosette Nebula is not the giant red nebula near the top of the image -- that is a larger but lesser known nebula known as Lambda Orionis. The Rosette Nebula is visible, though: it is the red and white nebula on the upper left. The bright orange star just above the frame center is Betelgeuse, while the bright blue star on the lower right is Rigel. Other famous nebulas visible include the Witch Head Nebula, the Flame Nebula, the Fox Fur Nebula, and, if you know just where to look, the comparatively small Horsehead Nebula. About those famous three stars that cross the belt of Orion the Hunter -- in this busy frame they can be hard to locate, but a discerning eye will find them just below and to the right of the image center.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 16 - A Blazing Fireball between the Orion Nebula and Rigel
Explanation: What's happening to that meteor? A few days ago, a bright fireball was photographed from the Alps mountain range in Switzerland as it blazed across the sky. The fireball, likely from the Taurids meteor shower, was notable not only for how bright it was, but for the rare orange light it created that lingered for several minutes. Initially, the orange glow made it seem like the meteor trail was on fire. However, the orange glow, known as a persistent train, originated neither from fire nor sunlight-reflecting smoke. Rather, the persistent train's glow emanated from atoms in the Earth's atmosphere in the path of the meteor -- atoms that had an electron knocked away and emit light during reacquisition. Persistent trains often drift, so that the long 3-minute exposure actually captured the initial wind-blown displacement of these bright former ions. The featured image was acquired when trying to image the famous Orion Nebula, visible on the upper left. The bright blue star Rigel, part of the constellation of Orion, is visible to the right. This week the fireball-rich Taurids meteor shower continues to be active even though it has passed its peak, while the more active Leonids meteor shower is just peaking.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 November 4 - The Great Orion Nebula M42
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae 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 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 nebulas 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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 October 5 - Orion Over and Under Tibet
Explanation: This night was so serene you could see Orion rise downwards. The unusual spectacle was captured in this single-exposure image, featuring a deep sky around the famous constellation of Orion that appeared both above -- and reflected in -- a peaceful lake in the Gyirong Valley of Tibet, China. Taken last year at this time, the three belt stars of Orion can be seen lined up almost vertically above and below the Himalayan Mountains. The complex Orion Nebula can be seen to the belt stars' right, while the red-glowing circular structure surrounding Orion is Barnard's Loop. Also, the bright red star Betelgeuse is doubly visible on the image left, while bright blue Rigel appears twice on the image right. Familiar Orion is becoming increasingly visible as Winter (Summer) descends on the Northern (Southern) hemisphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 March 26 - Orion Spring
Explanation: As spring comes to planet Earth's northern hemisphere, familiar winter constellation Orion sets in early evening skies and budding trees frame the Hunter's stars. The yellowish hue of cool red supergiant Alpha Orionis, the great star Betelgeuse, mingles with the branches at the top of this colorful skyscape. Orion's alpha star is joined on the far right by Alpha Tauri. Also known as Aldebaran and also a giant star cooler than the Sun, it shines with a yellow light at the head of Taurus, the Bull. Contrasting blue supergiant Rigel, Beta Orionis, is Orion's other dominant star though, and marks the Hunter's foot below center. Of course, the sword of Orion hangs from the Hunter's three blue belt stars near picture center, but the middle star in the sword is not a star at all. A slightly fuzzy pinkish glow hints at its true nature, a nearby stellar nursery visible to the unaided eye known as the Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 March 16 - The Clouds of Orion the Hunter
Explanation: Cradled in cosmic dust and glowing hydrogen, stellar nurseries in Orion the Hunter lie at the edge of giant molecular clouds some 1,500 light-years away. Spanning about 30 degrees, this breath-taking vista stretches across the well-known constellation from head to toe (left to right) and beyond. At 1,500 light years away, the Great Orion Nebula is the closest large star forming region, here visible just right and below center. To its left are the Horsehead Nebula, M78, and Orion's belt stars. Sliding your cursor over the picture will also find red giant Betelgeuse at the hunter's shoulder, bright blue Rigel at his foot, the Witch Head Nebula above -- and illuminated by -- Rigel, and the glowing Lambda Orionis (Meissa) nebula on the left, near Orion's head. Of course, the Orion Nebula and bright stars are easy to see with the unaided eye, but dust clouds and emission from the extensive interstellar gas in this nebula-rich complex, are too faint and much harder to record. In this mosaic of broadband telescopic images, additional image data acquired with a narrow hydrogen alpha filter was used to bring out the pervasive tendrils of energized atomic hydrogen gas like in the arc of the giant Barnard's Loop.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 January 19 - Infrared Orion from WISE
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is an intriguing place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. But this image, an illusory-color four-panel mosaic taken in different bands of infrared light with the Earth orbiting WISE observatory, shows the Orion Nebula to be a bustling neighborhood of recently formed stars, hot gas, and dark dust. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the stars of the Trapezium star cluster, seen near the center of the above wide field image. The orange glow surrounding the bright stars pictured here is their own starlight reflected by intricate dust filaments that cover much of the region. The current Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2015 January 2 - At the Heart of Orion
Explanation: Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Tightly gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1,500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 19 - Reflections on the 1970s
Explanation: The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers, like this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion - NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 - usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion's sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. In this sharp color image a portion of the Orion Nebula appears along the bottom border with the cluster of reflection nebulae at picture center. NGC 1977 stretches across the field just below center, separated from NGC 1973 (above right) and NGC 1975 (above left) by dark regions laced with faint red emission from hydrogen atoms. Taken together, the dark regions suggest to many the shape of a running man.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 December 6 - Orion Launch
Explanation: Headed for two orbits of planet Earth and a splashdown in the Pacific, Orion blazed into the early morning sky on Friday at 7:05am ET. The spacecraft was launched atop a United Launch Aliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Its first voyage into space on an uncrewed flight test, the Orion traveled some 3,600 miles from Earth, about 15 times higher than the orbital altitude of the International Space Station. In fact, Orion traveled farther into space than any spacecraft designed for astronauts since the Apollo missions to the Moon. The Orion crew module reached speeds of 20,000 miles per hour and temperatures approaching 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere about 4.5 hours after launch.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 November 11 - Orion in Gas, Dust, and Stars
Explanation: The constellation of Orion holds much more than three stars in a row. A deep exposure shows everything from dark nebulae to star clusters, all embedded in an extended patch of gaseous wisps in the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The brightest three stars on the far left are indeed the famous three stars that make up the belt of Orion. Just below Alnitak, the lowest of the three belt stars, is the Flame Nebula, glowing with excited hydrogen gas and immersed in filaments of dark brown dust. Below and left of the frame center and just to the right of Alnitak lies the Horsehead Nebula, a dark indentation of dense dust that has perhaps the most recognized nebular shapes on the sky. On the upper right lies M42, the Orion Nebula, an energetic caldron of tumultuous gas, visible to the unaided eye, that is giving birth to a new open cluster of stars. Immediately to the left of M42 is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man that houses many bright blue stars. The featured image covers an area with objects that are roughly 1,500 light years away and spans about 75 light years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 June 28 - Orion Arising
Explanation: Orion's belt runs just along the horizon, seen through Earth's atmosphere and rising in this starry snapshot from low Earth orbit on board the International Space Station. The belt stars, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka run right to left and Orion's sword, home to the great Orion Nebula, hangs above his belt, an orientation unfamiliar to denizens of the planet's northern hemisphere. That puts bright star Rigel, at the foot of Orion, still higher above Orion's belt. Of course the brightest celestial beacon in the frame is Sirius, alpha star of the constellation Canis Major. The station's Destiny Laboratory module is in the foreground at the top right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 April 8 - M42: Inside the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image composite in assigned colors taken by the Hubble Space Telescope wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain much hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 March 25 - Orion Nebula in Surrounding Dust
Explanation: What surrounds a hotbed of star formation? In the case of the Orion Nebula -- dust. The entire Orion field, located about 1600 light years away, is inundated with intricate and picturesque filaments of dust. Opaque to visible light, dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong outer wind of particles. The Trapezium and other forming star clusters are embedded in the nebula. The intricate filaments of dust surrounding M42 and M43 appear gray in the above image, while central glowing gas is highlighted in brown and blue. Over the next few million years much of Orion's dust will be slowly destroyed by the very stars now being formed, or dispersed into the Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 March 24 - Orion and Aurora over Iceland
Explanation: If you see a sky like this -- photograph it. A month ago in Iceland, an adventurous photographer chanced across a sky full of aurora and did just that. In the foreground lies the stratovolcano rfajkull. In the background, among other sky delights, lies the constellation of Orion, visible to the aurora's left. Auroras are sparked by energetic particles from the Sun impacting the magnetic environment around the Earth. Resultant energetic particles such as electrons and protons rain down near the Earth's poles and impact the air. The impacted air molecules obtain excited electrons, and when electrons in oxygen molecules fall back to their ground state, they emit green light. Auroras are known to have many shapes and colors.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 February 2 - Mars and Orion over Monument Valley
Explanation: Welcome to The World At Night. Sharing the night sky seen around the world, this view from Monument Valley, USA includes a picturesque foreground of famous buttes. Buttes are composed of hard rock left behind after water eroded away the surrounding soft rock. The two buttes on the image left are known as the Mittens, while Merrick Butte is on the right. Recorded in 2007 December, planet Mars is at the left of the skyscape, a glowing beacon of orange that is the brightest object in the frame. To the right of Mars lies the constellation of Orion. Betelgeuse is the reddish star near the center and the Belt of Orion and the Orion Nebula are farther right. Finally, the bright blue star Rigel appears above Merrick Butte in this stunning view of The World At Night.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2014 January 15 - Spitzer's Orion
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This stunning false-color view spans about 40 light-years across the region, constructed using infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Compared to its visual wavelength appearance, the brightest portion of the nebula is likewise centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But the infrared image also detects the nebula's many protostars, still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. In fact, red spots along the dark dusty filament to the left of the bright cluster include the protostar cataloged as HOPS 68, recently found to have crystals of the silicate mineral olivine within its protostellar envelope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 November 28 - NGC 1999: South of Orion
Explanation: South of the large star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula, lies bright blue reflection nebula NGC 1999. At the edge of the Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant, NGC 1999's illumination is provided by the embedded variable star V380 Orionis. That nebula is marked with a dark sideways T-shape near center in this cosmic vista that spans about 10 light-years. The dark shape was once assumed to be an obscuring dust cloud seen in silhouette against the bright reflection nebula. But recent infrared images indicate the shape is likely a hole blown through the nebula itself by energetic young stars. In fact, this region abounds with energetic young stars producing jets and outflows with luminous shock waves. Cataloged as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects, named for astronomers George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, the shocks look like red gashes in this scene that includes HH1 and HH2 just below NGC 1999. The stellar jets push through the surrounding material at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 October 29 - Horsehead and Orion Nebulas
Explanation: The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right. Immediately to its left is a prominent reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 June 4 - Orion Nebula in Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Sulfur
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud. Many of the filamentary structures visible in the above image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The above image shows the nebula in three colors specifically emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur gas. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 March 20 - M42: Inside the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image in assigned colors highlighted by emission in oxygen and hydrogen, wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye near the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain much hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 February 13 - Infrared Orion from WISE
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a intriguing place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. But this image, an illusory-color composite of four colors of infrared light taken with the Earth orbiting WISE observatory, shows the Orion Nebula to be a bustling neighborhood or recently formed stars, hot gas, and dark dust. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the stars of the Trapezium star cluster, seen near the center of the above wide field image. The eerie green glow surrounding the bright stars pictured here is their own starlight reflected by intricate dust filaments that cover much of the region. The current Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 February 3 - LL Ori and the Orion Nebula
Explanation: This esthetic close-up of cosmic clouds and stellar winds features LL Orionis, interacting with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged Sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The small, arcing, graceful structure just above and left of center is LL Ori's cosmic bow shock, measuring about half a light-year across. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula's hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the upper left corner of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori's wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the "bottom" edge. The beautiful picture is part of a large mosaic view of the complex stellar nursery in Orion, filled with a myriad of fluid shapes associated with star formation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2013 January 10 - The Orion Bullets
Explanation: Cosmic bullets pierce the outskirts of the Orion Nebula some 1500 light-years distant in this sharp infrared close-up. Blasted out by energetic massive star formation the bullets, relatively dense, hot gas clouds about ten times the size of Pluto's orbit, are blue in the false color image. Glowing with the light of ionized iron atoms they travel at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second, their passage traced by yellowish trails of the nebula's shock-heated hydrogen gas. The cone-shaped wakes are up to a fifth of a light-year long. The detailed image was created using the 8.1 meter Gemini South telescope in Chile with a newly commisioned adaptive optics system (GeMS). Achieving a larger field of view than previous generation adaptive optics, GeMS uses five laser generated guide stars to help compensate for the blurring effects of planet Earth's atmosphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 December 21 - Orion over El Castillo
Explanation: Welcome to the December solstice, a day the world does not end ... even according to the Mayan Calendar. To celebrate, consider this dramatic picture of Orion rising over El Castillo, the central pyramid at Chichén Itzá, one of the great Mayan centers on the Yucatán peninsula. Also known as the Temple of Kukulkan it stands 30 meters tall and 55 meters wide at the base. Built up as a series of square terraces by the pre-Columbian civilization between the 9th and 12th century, the structure can be used as a calendar and is noted for astronomical alignments. In fact, the Mayans were accomplished astronomers and mathematicians, accurately using the cyclic motions of the stars, Sun, Moon, and planets to measure time and construct calendars. Peering through clouds in this night skyscape, stars in the modern constellation Orion the Hunter represented a turtle in the Mayan sky. Tak sáamal.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 October 6 - At the Heart of Orion
Explanation: Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow. About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a recent dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 July 15 - Orion Nebula: The Hubble View
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula's energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view - providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of the Orion Nebula is the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory's La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. The mosaic contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 February 12 - Orion in Gas, Dust, and Stars
Explanation: The constellation of Orion holds much more than three stars in a row. A deep exposure shows everything from dark nebula to star clusters, all embedded in an extended patch of gaseous wisps in the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The brightest three stars on the far left are indeed the famous three stars that make up the belt of Orion. Just below Alnitak, the lowest of the three belt stars, is the Flame Nebula, glowing with excited hydrogen gas and immersed in filaments of dark brown dust. Below the frame center and just to the right of Alnitak lies the Horsehead Nebula, a dark indentation of dense dust that has perhaps the most recognized nebular shapes on the sky. On the upper right lies M42, the Orion Nebula, an energetic caldron of tumultuous gas, visible to the unaided eye, that is giving birth to a new open cluster of stars. Immediately to the left of M42 is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man that houses many bright blue stars. The above image, a digitally stitched composite taken over several nights, covers an area with objects that are roughly 1,500 light years away and spans about 75 light years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 February 6 - Dust of the Orion Nebula
Explanation: What surrounds a hotbed of star formation? In the case of the Orion Nebula -- dust. The entire Orion field, located about 1600 light years away, is inundated with intricate and picturesque filaments of dust. Opaque to visible light, dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong outer wind of particles. The Trapezium and other forming star clusters are embedded in the nebula. The intricate filaments of dust surrounding M42 and M43 appear brown in the above image, while central glowing gas is highlighted in red. Over the next few million years much of Orion's dust will be slowly destroyed by the very stars now being formed, or dispersed into the Galaxy.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 January 23 - Deep Orion Over the Canary Islands
Explanation: Which attracts your eye more -- the sky or the ground? On the ground are rocky peaks in Teide National Park on Tenerife Island of the Spanish Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa. The volcanic landscape features old island summits and is sometimes used as a testbed for instruments on future Martian rovers. The lights of a nearby hotel shine on the far left. Storm clouds are visible on the horizon, artificially strutted from multiple exposures. Dividing the sky, across the middle of the above deep image, is the vertical band of the Milky Way Galaxy. The red circle on the right is Barnard's Loop, near the center of which are the famous belt stars of the constellation Orion. Soon after the above image was taken, during an evening earlier this year, storm clouds rolled across, and indoor locations began to attract eyes the most.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2012 January 19 - The Hunter's Stars
Explanation: Begirt with many a blazing star, Orion, the Hunter, is one of the most easily recognizable constellations. In this night skyscape from January 15, the hunter's stars rise in the northern hemisphere's winter sky, framed by bare trees and bounded below by terrestrial lights around Lough Eske (Lake of Fish) in County Donegal, Ireland. Red giant star Betelgeuse is striking in yellowish hues at Orion's shoulder above and left of center. Rivaling the bright red giant, Rigel, a blue supergiant star holds the opposing position near Orion's foot. Of course, the sword of Orion hangs from the hunter's three belt stars near picture center, but the middle star in the sword is not a star at all. A slightly fuzzy pinkish glow hints at its true nature, a nearby stellar nursery visible to the unaided eye known as the Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 September 17 - Spitzer's Orion
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This stunning false-color view spans about 40 light-years across the region, constructed using infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Compared to its visual wavelength appearance, the brightest portion of the nebula is likewise centered on Orion's young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But the infrared image also detects the nebula's many protostars, still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. In fact, red spots along the dark dusty filament to the left of the bright cluster include the protostar cataloged as HOPS 68, recently found to have crystals of the silicate mineral olivine within its protostellar envelope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 September 13 - Great Orion Nebulae
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 February 24 - NGC 1999: South of Orion
Explanation: South of the large star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula, lies bright blue reflection nebula NGC 1999. Also at the edge of the Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant, NGC 1999's illumination is provided by the embedded variable star V380 Orionis. The nebula is marked with a dark sideways T-shape near center in this broad cosmic vista that spans over 10 light-years. The dark shape was once assumed to be an obscuring dust cloud seen in silhouette against the bright reflection nebula. But recent infrared images indicate the shape is likely a hole blown through the nebula itself by energetic young stars. In fact, this region abounds with energetic young stars producing jets and outflows that create luminous shock waves. Cataloged as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects, named for astronomers George Herbig and Guillermo Haro, the shocks appear bright red in this view that includes HH1 and HH2 just below NGC 1999. The stellar jets and outflows push through the surrounding material at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2011 February 11 - Star Colors in Orion
Explanation: What determines a star's color? Its temperature. Red stars are cool, with surface temperatures of around 3,000 kelvins (K), while blue stars are hotter and can have temperatures over 30,000 K. Our own lovely "yellow" Sun's temperature is a comforting 6,000 K. Differences in star colors are particularly easy to see in this intriguing composite view of the constellation Orion, made while experimenting with a star trail step-focus technique. In it, a series of 35 consecutive exposures were combined to produce trails of stars moving left to right through the frame, while changing focus in steps. Beginning and ending with the camera out of focus produced a sharply focused exposure near the middle of the series and blurs the star trails into a bow tie shape. For the brighter stars, blurring produces more saturated colors in the images. At the upper left, Orion's cool red supergiant Betelgeuse stands out from the other, hotter, bluish stars composing the body of the constellation. Not a star at all, the Orion Nebula contributes a pinkish tint below center. Also remarkable in the field, the fainter step focus trail of cool, deep red carbon star W Orionis is near the center right edge, its red hue enhanced by a carbon-rich composition.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 December 26 - Sideways Orion Over Snowy Ireland
Explanation: Orion always comes up sideways ... and was caught in the act earlier this month by over a snowy landscape in Donegal, Ireland. To compose this serene picture, the photographer found a picturesque setting to the east, waited until after sunset, and then momentarily lit the foreground with a flashlight. The three bright stars in Orion's belt stand in a nearly vertical line above the snow covered road at the bottom. Hanging from his belt, the stars and nebulae of the Hunter's sword are visible lower and to the right. Yellow-orange Betelgeuse is the brightest star on the image left. As winter progresses in Earth's northern hemisphere, Orion will rise earlier and so appear continually higher in the sky at sunset.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 November 17 - Frosted Leaf Orion
Explanation: Sometimes, you can put some night sky in your art. Captured above Japan earlier this month, a picturesque night sky was photographed behind a picturesque frosted leaf. The reflecting ice crystals on the leaf coolly mimic the shining stars far in the background. The particular background sky on this 48-second wide angle exposure, however, might appear quite interesting and familiar. On the far left, although hard to find, appears a streaking meteor. Below and to the right of the meteor appears a longer and brighter streak of an airplane. The bright star on the left is the dog-star Sirius, the brightest star on the night sky. To Sirius' right appears the constellation of Orion, including the three linear belt stars below the red giant Betelgeuse. The bright patch of light further to the right is the Pleiades open star cluster. Similar views including the constellation Orion can be seen above much of the northern hemisphere for the next several months, although you might have to provide your own leaf.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 October 23 - Orion: Head to Toe
Explanation: Cradled in cosmic dust and glowing hydrogen, stellar nurseries in Orion the Hunter lie at the edge of a giant molecular cloud some 1,500 light-years away. Spanning nearly 25 degrees, this breath-taking vista stretches across the well-known constellation from head to toe (left to right). The Great Orion Nebula, the closest large star forming region, is right of center. To its left are the Horsehead Nebula, M78, and Orion's belt stars. Sliding your cursor over the picture will also find red giant Betelgeuse at the hunter's shoulder, bright blue Rigel at his foot, and the glowing Lambda Orionis (Meissa) nebula at the far left, near Orion's head. Of course, the Orion Nebula and bright stars are easy to see with the unaided eye, but dust clouds and emission from the extensive interstellar gas in this nebula-rich complex, are too faint and much harder to record. In this mosaic of broadband telescopic images, additional image data acquired with a narrow hydrogen alpha filter was used to bring out the pervasive tendrils of energized atomic hydrogen gas and the arc of the giant Barnard's Loop.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 October 5 - Horsehead and Orion Nebulas
Explanation: The dark Horsehead Nebula and the glowing Orion Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, they appear in opposite corners of the above stunning mosaic. The familiar Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right. Immediately to its left is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 April 10 - Spitzer's Orion
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. Spanning about 40 light-years across the region, this new infrared image from the Spitzer Space Telescope was constructed from data intended to monitor the brightness of the nebula's young stars, many still surrounded by dusty, planet-forming disks. Orion's young stars are only about 1 million years old, compared to the Sun's age of 4.6 billion years. The region's hottest stars are found in the Trapezium Cluster, the brightest cluster near picture center. Spitzer's liquid helium coolant ran out in May 2009, so this false color view is from two channels that still remain sensitive to infrared light at warmer operating temperatures.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2010 March 2 - M78 and Reflecting Dust Clouds in Orion
Explanation: An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78 and other bright reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion. The dark filamentary dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. Of the two reflection nebulas pictured above, the more famous nebula is M78, in the image center, while NGC 2071 can be seen to its lower left. The same type of scattering that colors the daytime sky further enhances the blue color. M78 is about five light-years across and visible through a small telescope. M78 appears above only as it was 1600 years ago, however, because that is how long it takes light to go from there to here. M78 belongs to the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex that contains the Great Nebula in Orion and the Horsehead Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 December 22 - Planetary Systems Now Forming in Orion
Explanation: How do planets form? To help find out, the Hubble Space Telescope was tasked to take a detailed look at one of the more interesting of all astronomical nebulae, the Great Nebula in Orion. The Orion nebula, visible with the unaided eye near the belt in the constellation of Orion, is an immense nearby starbirth region and probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Insets to the above mosaic show numerous proplyds, many of which are stellar nurseries likely harboring planetary systems in formation. Some proplyds glow as close disks surrounding bright stars light up, while other proplyds contain disks further from their host star, contain cooler dust, and hence appear as dark silhouettes against brighter gas. Studying this dust, in particular, is giving insight for how planets are forming. Many proplyd images also show arcs that are shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula lies about 1,500 light years distant and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as our Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 October 2 - Comet and Orion
Explanation: These colorful panels both feature a familiar astronomical sight: the stellar nursery known as the Great Orion Nebula. They also offer an intriguing and unfamiliar detail of the nebula rich skyscape -- a passing comet. Recorded this weekend with a remotely operated telescope in New Mexico, the right hand image was taken on September 26 and the left on September 27. Comet 217P Linear sports an extended greenish tail and lies above the bluish Running Man reflection nebula near the top of both frames. Nearby and moving rapidly through the night sky, the comet's position clearly shifts against the cosmic nebulae and background stars from one night to the next. In fact, the comet was a mere 5 light-minutes away on September 27, compared to 1,500 light-years for the Orion Nebula. Much too faint to be seen with the unaided eye, Comet 217P Linear is a small periodic comet with an orbital period of about 8 years. At its most distant point from the Sun, the comet's orbit is calculated to reach beyond the orbit of Jupiter At its closest point to the Sun, the comet still lies just beyond the orbit of planet Earth.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 September 29 - Orion in Gas, Dust, and Stars
Explanation: The constellation of Orion holds much more than three stars in a row. A deep exposure shows everything from dark nebula to star clusters, all imbedded in an extended patch of gaseous wisps in the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The brightest three stars on the far left are indeed the famous three stars that make up the belt of Orion. Just below Alnitak, the lowest of the three belt stars, is the Flame Nebula, glowing with excited hydrogen gas and immersed in filaments of dark brown dust. Below the frame center and just to the right of Alnitak lies the Horsehead Nebula, a dark indentation of dense dust that has perhaps the most recognized nebular shapes on the sky. On the upper right lies M42, the Orion Nebula, an energetic caldron of tumultuous gas, visible to the unaided eye, that is giving birth to a new open cluster of stars. Immediately to the left of M42 is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man that houses many bright blue stars. The above image, a digitally stitched composite taken over several nights, covers an area with objects that are roughly 1,500 light years away and spans about 75 light years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 August 26 - Classic Orion Nebulae
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are near the center of this colorful deep sky image that includes the smaller nebula M43 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. Captured with very modest equipment, the gorgeous skyscape was awarded Best in Show at the 2009 Starfest International Salon of Astrophotography. Judges commented that the detail and shading were exquisite in this version of a classic astronomical image. The field spans nearly 3 degrees or about 75 light-years at the Orion Nebula's estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 March 10 - Horsehead and Orion Nebulae
Explanation: Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, the glowing Orion Nebula and the dark Horsehead Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. They appear in opposite corners of this stunning mosaic taken with a digital camera attached to a small telescope. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right of the picture. Immediately to its left is a prominent bluish reflection nebula sometimes called the Running Man. The Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Pervasive tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region in this deep field image of the same region.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 February 22 - Orion Nebula: The Hubble View
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula's energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view - providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of the Orion Nebula is the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory's La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. The mosaic contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 February 11 - Orion s Belt Continued
Explanation: Yesterday's skyscape featured Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, the stars of Orion's Belt. Today's also presents the easternmost belt star, Alnitak, at the bottom right of the field, surrounded by the well-known Horsehead and Flame nebulae. But this view sweeps farther to the east (left) and north (top) detailing subtler cosmic clouds of gas and dust scattered through the fertile, nebula rich region. The scene is anchored at the top left by the eerie blue glow and ominous dark dust lanes of reflection nebula M78. Like the Horsehead, the Flame, and the Orion Nebula itself, M78 is a readily visible part of the large Orion Molecular Cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2009 February 10 - Orion s Belt
Explanation: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, are the bright bluish stars from east to west (left to right) along the diagonal in this gorgeous cosmic vista. Otherwise known as the Belt of Orion, these three blue supergiant stars are hotter and much more massive than the Sun. They lie about 1,500 light-years away, born of Orion's well-studied interstellar clouds. In fact, clouds of gas and dust adrift in this region have intriguing and some surprisingly familiar shapes, including the dark Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula near Alnitak at the lower left. The famous Orion Nebula itself lies off the bottom of this star field that covers about 4.5x3.5 degrees on the sky. This image was taken last month with a digital camera attached to a small telescope in Switzerland, and better matches human color perception than a more detailed composite taken over 15 years ago.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 December 16 - Orion Dawn Over Mount Nemrut
Explanation: What's that in front of Orion? Forty kilometers north of Kahta, Turkey, lies Mount Nemrut, a mountain adorned with the fragments of vast statues built over 2000 years ago. The stone sculptures once stood nearly 10 meters high and depicted lions, eagles, various ancient gods, and King Antiochus I Theos, who ruled Commagene from 86 BC to 38 BC. Ruins of the bodies of several sitting figures are visible on the hill above, illuminated by moonlight. Zeus' head can be found near the above image's center, while the king's head is seen next closest to the horizon. Visible far in the distance in this image, taken three months ago, is the familiar constellation of Orion. The red patch just below Orion's belt is the Orion Nebula, while the bright star to the left of Orion is Sirius. On the far left, a red and brightening horizon announces that the Sun is beginning to rise.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 November 26 - The Horsehead Nebula in Orion
Explanation: One of the most identifiable nebulae in the sky, the Horsehead Nebula in Orion, is part of a large, dark, molecular cloud. Also known as Barnard 33, the unusual shape was first discovered on a photographic plate in the late 1800s. The red glow originates from hydrogen gas predominantly behind the nebula, ionized by the nearby bright star Sigma Orionis. A blue reflection nebula dubbed NGC 2023 surrounds the bright star at the lower left. The darkness of the Horsehead is caused mostly by thick dust, although the lower part of the Horsehead's neck casts a shadow to the left. Streams of gas leaving the nebula are funneled by a strong magnetic field. Bright spots in the Horsehead Nebula's base are young stars just in the process of forming. Light takes about 1500 years to reach us from the Horsehead Nebula. The above image was taken earlier this month with a 0.6-meter telescope at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter in Arizona, USA.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 October 23 - Great Orion Nebulae
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful two frame mosaic 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 solar 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.

Editor's Note: A version of the image with labels generated by Astrometry.net is available here.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 October 15 - Camera Orion
Explanation: Orion, the Hunter, is one of the most easily recognizable constellations in planet Earth's night sky. But Orion's stars and nebulas don't look quite as colorful to the eye as they do in this lovely camera image, taken early last month at the Black Forest Star Party from Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania, USA. In this single exposure, cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a yellowish tint as the brightest star at the far left. Otherwise Orion's hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse at the upper right, Bellatrix at the upper left, and Saiph at the lower right. Lined up in Orion's belt (bottom to top) are Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka all about 1,500 light-years away, born of the constellation's well studied interstellar clouds. And if the middle "star" of Orion's sword looks reddish and fuzzy to you, it should. It's the stellar nursery known as the Great Nebula of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 8 - Southern Orion: From Belt to Witch
Explanation: Do you recognize the belt of Orion in this image? The familiar trio of stars, visible to the unaided eye, can be found across the upper left. Otherwise, the southern part of the constellation Orion has taken on a new look in this unusually deep and wide view First note that the lower left belt star, Alnitak, is the easternmost star in Orion's belt. Left of Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Directly below Alnitak, a close inspection will reveal the Horsehead Nebula. Farther right and below is the Orion Nebula, M42, itself visible to the unaided eye. The brightest star in the frame, near the bottom right, is Rigel. A bright blue star, Rigel illuminates the ominously shaped dust patch known as the Witch Head Nebula, visible as the blue reflection nebula near the lower right corner. Finally, appearing as a vast red ring and encompassing the entire region, is Barnard's Loop. Humans could see this entire menagerie, unaided, were their eyes about 10,000 times more sensitive.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 April 3 - South of Orion
Explanation: This tantalizing array of nebulae and stars can be found about 2 degrees south of the famous star-forming Orion Nebula. The region abounds with energetic young stars producing jets and outflows that push through the surrounding material at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second. The interaction creates luminous shock waves known as Herbig-Haro (HH) objects. For example, the graceful, flowing arc just right of center is cataloged as HH 222, also called the Waterfall Nebula. Seen below the Waterfall, HH 401 has a distinctive cone shape. The bright bluish nebula below and left of center is NGC 1999, a dusty cloud reflecting light from an embedded variable star. The entire cosmic vista spans over 30 light-years, near the edge of the Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 March 18 - M78 and Reflecting Dust Clouds in Orion
Explanation: An eerie blue glow and ominous columns of dark dust highlight M78 and other bright reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion. The dark filamentary dust not only absorbs light, but also reflects the light of several bright blue stars that formed recently in the nebula. Of the two reflection nebulas pictured above, the more famous nebula is M78, on the upper right, while NGC 2071 can be seen to its lower left. The same type of scattering that colors the daytime sky further enhances the blue color. M78 is about five light-years across and visible through a small telescope. M78 appears above only as it was 1600 years ago, however, because that is how long it takes light to go from there to here. M78 belongs to the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex that contains the Great Nebula in Orion and the Horsehead Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2008 February 21 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the dark indentation to the red emission nebula seen just below and left of center in the this photograph. The brightest star on the left is located in the belt of the familiar constellation Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud that lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae that preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 December 25 - Mars and Orion Over Monument Valley
Explanation: Welcome to The World At Night. Sharing the night sky seen around the world, this view from Monument Valley, USA includes a picturesque foreground of famous buttes. Buttes are composed of hard rock left behind after water eroded away the surrounding soft rock. The two buttes on the image left are known as the Mittens, while Merrick Butte is on the right. Recorded just last week, planet Mars is at the left of the skyscape, a glowing beacon of orange that is the brightest object in the frame. To the right of Mars lies the constellation of Orion. Betelgeuse is the reddish star near the center and the Belt of Orion and the Orion Nebula are farther right. Finally, the bright blue star Rigel appears above Merrick Butte in this stunning view of The World At Night.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 December 20 - Reflections on the 1970s
Explanation: The 1970s are sometimes ignored by astronomers. In particular, this beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae in Orion - NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 - are usually overlooked in favor of the substantial glow from the nearby stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along Orion's sword just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these reflection nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. North is down in this sharp color telescopic image from New South Wales, Australia, so the more familiar Orion Nebula borders the top of the view. NGC 1977 stretches across the field just above center, separated from NGC 1973 (below left) and NGC 1975 (below right) by darker regions of obscuring dust. Many northern hemisphere observers claim to see the general shape of a running man in the cosmic dust cloud but, of course, they're looking at the view upside down.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 October 6 - X-Ray Stars of Orion
Explanation: The stars of Orion shine brightly in visible light in planet Earth's night sky. The constellation harbors the closest large stellar nursery, the Great Nebula of Orion, a mere 1,500 light-years away. In fact, the apparently bright clump of stars near the center of this false color Chandra x-ray telescope picture are the massive stars of the Trapezium - the young star cluster which powers much of the nebula's visible-light glow. The stars shown in blue and orange are young sun-like stars; prodigious sources of x-rays thought to be produced in hot stellar coronae and surface flares in a young star's strong magnetic field. Our middle-aged Sun itself was probably thousands of times brighter in x-rays when, like the Trapezium stars, it was only a few million years old. The x-ray image spans about 2.5 light-years across the central region of the Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 May 11 - LDN 1622: Dark Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The silhouette of an intriguing dark nebula inhabits this cosmic scene, based on images from the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey. Lynds' Dark Nebula (LDN) 1622 appears against a faint background of glowing hydrogen gas only easily seen in long telescopic exposures of the region. LDN 1622 lies near the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, close on the sky to Barnard's Loop - a large cloud surrounding the rich complex of emission nebulae found in the Belt and Sword of Orion. But the obscuring dust of LDN 1622 is thought to be much closer than Orion's more famous nebulae, perhaps only 500 light-years away. At that distance, this 1 degree wide field of view would span less than 10 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 March 26 - Bullet Pillars in Orion
Explanation: Why are bullets of gas shooting out of the Orion Nebula? Nobody is yet sure. First discovered in 1983, each bullet is actually about the size of our Solar System, and moving at about 400 km/sec from a central source dubbed IRc2. The age of the bullets, which can be found from their speed and distance from IRc2, is very young -- typically less than 1,000 years. As the bullets rip through the interior of the Orion Nebula, a small percentage of iron gas causes the tip of each bullet to glow blue, while each bullet leaves a tubular pillar that glows by the light of heated hydrogen gas. Pictured above, the Orion bullets were captured in unprecedented detail by the adaptive optics technology of the Gemini North telescope. M42, the Orion Nebula, is the closest major star forming region to us and filled with changing dust, gas, and bright stars. The Orion Nebula, is located about 1,500 light years away and can be seen with the unaided eye toward the constellation of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 January 25 - Orion's Cradle
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2007 January 6 - The Orion Deep Field
Explanation: Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, the glowing Orion Nebula and the dark Horsehead Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. But even fainter filaments of glowing gas are easily traced throughout the region in this stunning composite image that includes exposures filtered to record emission from hydrogen atoms. The view reveals extensive nebulosities associated with the giant Orion Molecular Cloud complex, itself hundreds of light-years across. A magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42) lies at the upper right of the picture. Immediately to its left are a cluster of prominent bluish reflection nebulae sometimes called the Running Man. The Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow left of center. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Completing the trio of Orion's belt stars, bluish Alnilam and Mintaka form a line with Alnitak, extending to the upper left.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 December 16 - A Path To Orion
Explanation: Last Saturday, the Space Shuttle Discovery lit up the night as it climbed into orbit above planet Earth. From Oak Hill, Florida, USA - about 30 miles north of the Kennedy Space Center - design engineer Andrew Arigema tracked the shuttle and recorded a four minute time exposure of the exhaust plume along Discovery's path against the background of the starry sky. At the upper left, the end of the drifting plume is punctuated by Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka in a vertical line, the belt stars of Orion. To the right of the belt stars, the pinkish jewel in Orion's sword is not a star at all, but the great Orion Nebula. Still farther to the right, at the foot of the hunter, lies Rigel, the brightest star in view. Rigel is a hot supergiant star some 700 light-years in the distance.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 December 8 - NGC 2174: Emission Nebula in Orion
Explanation: A lesser known sight in the nebula-rich constellation Orion, NGC 2174 can be found with binoculars near the head of the celestial hunter. About 6,400 light-years distant, the glowing cosmic cloud surrounds loose clusters of young stars. Covering an area larger than the full Moon on the sky, this stunning narrow band image adopts a typical color mapping of the atomic emission from NGC 2174. The false-color mapping shows otherwise red hydrogen emission in green hues and emphasizes sulfur emission in red and oxygen in blue. Placing your cursor on the image will reveal an alternative image of the nebula made through broad band filters. The broad band image combines filters in a closer analogy to human vision, dominated by the red glow of hydrogen.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 November 20 - M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image, faint wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 October 15 - An Orion Deep Field
Explanation: Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, the glowing Orion Nebula and the dark Horsehead Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. They both appear in this stunning composite digital image assembled from over 20 hours of data that includes exposures filtered to record emission from hydrogen atoms. The view reveals extensive nebulosities associated with the giant Orion Molecular Cloud complex, itself hundreds of light-years across. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right of the picture. Immediately to its left are a cluster of of prominent bluish reflection nebulae sometimes called the Running Man. The Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Fainter tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region in this Orion deep field.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 October 10 - Reflection Nebulas in Orion
Explanation: In the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex, several bright blue nebulas are particularly apparent. Pictured above are two of the most prominent reflection nebulas - dust clouds lit by the reflecting light of bright embedded stars. The more famous nebula is M78, near the image center, cataloged over 200 years ago. On the upper left is the lesser known NGC 2071. The image was taken with the Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, USA. Astronomers continue to study these reflection nebulas to better understand how interior stars form. The Orion complex lies about 1500 light-years distant, contains the Orion and Horsehead nebulas, and covers much of the constellation of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 August 18 - Spitzer's Orion
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. Also known as M42, the nebula is visible to the unaided eye, but this stunning infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope penetrates the turbulent cosmic gas and dust clouds to explore the region in unprecedented detail. At full resolution, the remarkable image data yields a census of new stars and potential solar systems. About 2,300 young stars surrounded by planet-forming disks were detected based on the infrared glow of their warm dust, along with about 200 stellar embryos, stars too young to have developed disks. This 0.8 by 1.4 degree false-color image is about 20 light-years wide at the distance of the Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 January 30 - NGC 1999: South of Orion
Explanation: South of the large star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula, lies bright blue reflection nebula NGC 1999. The nebula is marked with a dark inverted T-shape at the lower left in a broad cosmic vista that spans over 10 light-years. The dark shape is a dense gas and dust cloud, or Bok globule, seen in silhouette against the bright nebula, and likely a site of future star formation. At the edge of the Orion molecular cloud complex some 1,500 light-years distant, NGC 1999's illumination is provided by the embedded variable star V380 Orionis. The region abounds with energetic young stars producing jets and outflows that create luminous shock waves, including HH (Herbig-Haro) 1 and 2 just below and left of NGC 1999, and the apparent cascade of reddish arcs and bow shocks beginning at the upper right. The stellar jets and outflows push through the surrounding material at speeds of hundreds of kilometers per second.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 January 20 - LL Ori and the Orion Nebula
Explanation: This esthetic close-up of cosmic clouds and stellar winds features LL Orionis, interacting with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged Sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The small, arcing, graceful structure just above and left of center is LL Ori's cosmic bow shock, measuring about half a light-year across. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula's hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the upper left corner of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori's wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the "bottom" edge. The beautiful picture is part of a large mosaic view of the complex stellar nursery in Orion, filled with a myriad of fluid shapes associated with star formation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2006 January 19 - Orion Nebula, The Hubble View
Explanation: Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula. Also known as M42, the nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. The Orion Nebula offers one of the best opportunities to study how stars are born partly because it is the nearest large star-forming region, but also because the nebula's energetic stars have blown away obscuring gas and dust clouds that would otherwise block our view - providing an intimate look at a range of ongoing stages of starbirth and evolution. This detailed image of the Orion Nebula is the sharpest ever, constructed using data from the Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys and the European Southern Observatory's La Silla 2.2 meter telescope. The mosaic contains a billion pixels at full resolution and reveals about 3,000 stars. In apparent size, the picture is as large as the Full Moon. At the distance of M42 it spans thirteen light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 September 18 - M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image, faint wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 May 19 - X Ray Stars in the Orion Nebula
Explanation: When our middle-aged Sun was just a few million years old it was thousands of times brighter in x-rays. In fact, it was likely similar to some of the stars found in this false-color x-ray composite of the Orion Nebula region from the Chandra Observatory. The image is centered on bright stars of the nebula's Trapezium star cluster, and while analyzing the Chandra data astronomers have now found examples of young, sun-like stars producing intense x-ray flares. It sounds dangerous, but the situation may actually favor the formation of hospitable planetary systems like our own. Energetic flares can produce turbulence in the planet-forming disks surrounding the stars - preventing rocky earth-like planets from spiraling uncomfortably close to and even falling into their active, young parent stars. About 1,500 light-years away, the Orion Nebula is the closest large stellar nursery. At that distance, this Chandra image spans about 10 light-years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 20 - Barnard's Loop Around Orion
Explanation: Why is the belt of Orion surrounded by a bubble? Although glowing like an emission nebula, the origin of the bubble, known as Barnard's Loop, is currently unknown. Progenitor hypotheses include the winds from bright Orion stars and the supernovas of stars long gone. Barnard's Loop is too faint to be identified with the unaided eye. The nebula was discovered only in 1895 by E. E. Barnard on long duration film exposures. Orion's belt is seen as the three bright stars across the center of the image, the upper two noticeably blue. Just to the right of the lowest star in Orion's belt is a slight indentation in an emission nebula that, when seen at higher magnification, resolves into the Horsehead Nebula. To the right of the belt stars is the bright, famous, and photogenic Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 April 19 - Orion in Infrared
Explanation: Do you recognize the constellation Orion? This striking but unfamiliar looking picture of the familiar Orion region of the sky was produced using survey data from the now-defunct InfraRed Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). The above image combines information recorded at three different invisible infrared wavelengths and covers about 30x24 degrees on the sky. Most of Orion's visually impressive stars don't stand out, but bright Betelgeuse does appear as a small bright purplish dot on the lower left. The bright region on the right contains the Great Nebula in Orion, while the bright region just above the image bottom is the Rosette Nebula. Surrounding these regions are a jumble of chaotic glowing gas and dark dust jettisoned by stars forming and exploding over millions of years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 March 21 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the dark indentation to the red emission nebula seen above and to the right of center in the above photograph. The bright star on the left is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud which lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae, which preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2005 January 6 - UKIRT: Aloha Orion
Explanation: At the edge of a dense molecular cloud, filaments of gas, cosmic dust, and a multitude of young stars beckon in this penetrating image of the Orion Nebula. Alluring structures in the well-known star forming region are revealed here in infrared light as viewed by a new Hawaiian eye - WFCAM - a powerful wide field camera commissioned at the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Mauna Kea. Only a fraction of WFCAM's full field, this picture covers about 11 light-years at the 1,500 light-year distance of the nebula. In the image, otherwise invisible infrared light has been mapped into visible colors. Red represents narrow-band infrared emission from hydrogen molecules at a wavelength of 2.12 microns, green is emission at 2.2 microns, and blue is emission at 1.25 microns. Visible light has a wavelength of about 0.5 microns (micrometers).

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 September 27 - The Great Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a colorful place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. Long exposure, digitally sharpened images like this, however, show the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. Many of the filamentary structures visible are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 July 13 - Orion Nebula in Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Sulfur
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is arguably the most famous of all astronomical nebulae. The Orion Nebula, also known as M42, is shown above through ultraviolet and blue filters augmented with three exact colors specifically emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain glowing gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Many of the filamentary structures visible in this image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 March 25 - An Orion of a Different Color
Explanation: Look up into the sky tonight, and even with a good telescope you won't come across a sight quite like this one. It is a familiar object though, the grand stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. But the striking picture combines images taken through three separate filters, each designed to record different emission lines - light from Sulfur, Oxygen, and Hydrogen atoms glowing in the tenuous nebular gas. At such low densities, Sulfur and Hydrogen atoms emit red colors while Oxygen glows green. To distinguish their contributions in the final image, Sulfur was assigned to red, Hydrogen to green, and Oxygen to blue, a color scheme used in mapped-color images of other astronomical nebulae as well. While the result is very different from what the eye might see, the image is still both beautiful and scientifically valuable, tracing elements and conditions within the nearby star forming region.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 March 15 - The Orion Nebula from CFHT
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The above image from the 3.6-meter Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii brings out Orion's detail in spectacular fashion. Buried in the complex nebulosity are the bright stars of the Trapezium in Orion's heart, the sweeping lanes of dark dust that cross the center, the pervasive red glowing hydrogen gas, and the blue tinted dust that reflects the light of newborn stars. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2004 January 15 - An Orion Deep Field
Explanation: Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, the glowing Orion Nebula and the dark Horsehead Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. They both appear in this stunning composite digital image assembled from over 20 hours of data that includes exposures filtered to record emission from hydrogen atoms. The view reveals extensive nebulosities associated with the giant Orion Molecular Cloud complex, itself hundreds of light-years across. The magnificent emission region, the Orion Nebula (aka M42), lies at the upper right of the picture. Immediately to its left are a cluster of of prominent bluish reflection nebulae sometimes called the Running Man. The Horsehead nebula appears as a dark cloud, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the lower left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star to the left of the Horsehead. Below Alnitak is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. Fainter tendrils of glowing hydrogen gas are easily traced throughout the region in this Orion deep field.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 November 15 - LL Orionis: When Cosmic Winds Collide
Explanation: This arcing, graceful structure is actually a bow shock about half a light-year across, created as the wind from young star LL Orionis collides with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula's hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the lower right hand edge of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori's wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the "bottom" edge. The complex stellar nursery in Orion shows a myriad of similar fluid shapes associated with star formation, including the bow shock surrounding a faint star at the upper right. Part of a mosaic covering the Great Nebula in Orion, this composite color image was recorded in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 October 2 - Reflections on the 1970s
Explanation: The 1970s are often overlooked. In particular, the beautiful grouping of reflection nebulae NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973 in Orion are often overlooked in favor of the substantial stellar nursery better known as the Orion Nebula. Found along the sword of Orion just north of the bright Orion Nebula complex, these nebulae are also associated with Orion's giant molecular cloud which lies about 1,500 light-years away, but are dominated by the characteristic blue color of interstellar dust reflecting light from hot young stars. In this sharp color image a portion of the Orion Nebula appears along the bottom border with the cluster of reflection nebulae at picture center. NGC 1977 stretches across the field just below center, separated from NGC 1973 (above right) and NGC 1975 (above left) by dark regions laced with faint red emission from hydrogen atoms. Taken together, the dark regions suggest to many the shape of a running man.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 February 25 - M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulas. Here, glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. In the above deep image, faint wisps and sheets of dust and gas are particularly evident. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 February 7 - Orion on Film
Explanation: Orion, the Hunter, is one of the most easily recognizable constellations in planet Earth's night sky. But Orion's stars and nebulae don't look quite as colorful to the eye as they do in this lovely photograph, taken last month from Vekol Ranch south of Phoenix, Arizona, USA. The celestial scene was recorded in a five minute time exposure using high-speed color print film and a 35mm camera mounted on a small telescope. In the picture, cool red giant Betelgeuse takes on a yellowish tint as the brightest star at the upper left. Otherwise Orion's hot blue stars are numerous, with supergiant Rigel balancing Betelgeuse at the lower right, Bellatrix at the upper right, and Saiph at the lower left. Lined up in Orion's belt (left to right) are Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka all about 1,500 light-years away, born of the constellation's well studied interstellar clouds. And if the middle "star" of Orion's sword looks reddish and fuzzy to you, it should. It's the stellar nursery known as the Great Nebula of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 January 29 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the dark indentation to the red emission nebula seen above and to the right of center in the above photograph. The bright star on the left is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud which lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae, which preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2003 January 21 - The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion
Explanation: In the vast Orion Molecular Cloud complex, several bright blue nebulas are particularly apparent. Pictured above are two of the most prominent reflection nebulas - dust clouds lit by the reflecting light of bright embedded stars. The more famous nebula is M78, on the upper right, cataloged over 200 years ago. On the lower left is the lesser known NGC 2071. Astronomers continue to study these reflection nebulas to better understand how interior stars form. The Orion complex lies about 1500 light-years distant, contains the Orion and Horsehead nebulas, and covers much of the constellation of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 December 25 - Orion Rising
Explanation: Orion always comes up sideways ... and was caught in the act earlier this month by astronomer Jimmy Westlake, stargazing eastward over the Rocky Mountains north of Leadville, Colorado, USA. To make this gorgeous image, Westlake placed his camera on a tripod for two exposures. The first lasted for 18 minutes allowing the stars to trail as they rose above the mountain range. After a minute long pause, the second exposure began and lasted only 25 seconds decorating the end of each trail with a celestial point of light. The three bright stars in Orion's belt stand in a nearly vertical line above the mountain peak right of center. Hanging from his belt, the stars and nebulae of the Hunter's sword follow the slope down and to the right. A festive yellow-orange Betelgeuse is the brightest star above the peak just left of center, but brighter still, planet Saturn shines near the upper left corner. In the foreground on planet Earth, a frozen lake and snowy mountains are lit by a four day old crescent Moon. Happy Holidays and Best Wishes from APOD!

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 December 20 - Colorful Clouds of Orion
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 May 30 - Orion Nebulosities
Explanation: Adrift 1,500 light-years away in one of the night sky's most recognizable constellations, the glowing Orion Nebula and the dark Horsehead Nebula are contrasting cosmic vistas. They both appear in this stunning composite color photograph along with other nebulosities as part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud complex, itself hundreds of light-years across. The magnificent Orion Nebula (aka M42) lies at the bottom of the image. This emission nebula's bright central regions were captured on fast film in a relatively short 30 second exposure. Above M42 are a cluster of prominent bluish reflection nebulae and fainter reddish emission nebulae recorded in additional exposures lasting up to 40 minutes. The Horsehead appears as a dark nebula, a small silhouette notched against the long red glow at the upper left. Alnitak is the easternmost star in Orion's belt and is seen as the brightest star above the Horsehead. Immediately to Alnitak's left is the Flame Nebula, with clouds of bright emission and dramatic dark dust lanes. The telescopic exposures were made from a site in the Southern French Alps at an altitude of 2,800 meters (a little closer to the stars!) in September of 2001.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 April 20 - Orion Nebula: The 2MASS View
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. This distinctively detailed image of the Orion Nebula was constructed using data from the 2 Micron All Sky Survey or 2MASS. Using telescopes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of planet Earth, the 2MASS project has mapped the entire sky in infrared light. The wavelength of infrared light is longer than visible light but more easily penetrates obscuring dust clouds. 2MASS cameras were sensitve to near infrared wavelengths around 2 microns or about 0.00008 inches. Visible light has a wavelength of about 0.00002 inches. Survey observations in three infrared bands were translated to blue, green, and red colors to produce this composite image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 March 13 - LL Orionis: When Cosmic Winds Collide
Explanation: This arcing, graceful structure is actually a bow shock about half a light-year across, created as the wind from young star LL Orionis collides with the Orion Nebula flow. Adrift in Orion's stellar nursery and still in its formative years, variable star LL Orionis produces a wind more energetic than the wind from our own middle-aged sun. As the fast stellar wind runs into slow moving gas a shock front is formed, analogous to the bow wave of a boat moving through water or a plane traveling at supersonic speed. The slower gas is flowing away from the Orion Nebula's hot central star cluster, the Trapezium, located off the lower right hand edge of the picture. In three dimensions, LL Ori's wrap-around shock front is shaped like a bowl that appears brightest when viewed along the "bottom" edge. The complex stellar nursery in Orion shows a myriad of similar fluid shapes associated with star formation, including the bow shock surrounding a faint star at the upper right. Part of a mosaic covering the Great Nebula in Orion, this composite color image was recorded in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2002 February 13 - The Great Nebula in Orion
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1500 light-years away. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The above image has been contrast balanced to bring out Orion's detail in spectacular fashion. Visible simultaneously are the bright stars of the Trapezium in Orion's heart, the sweeping lanes of dark dust that cross the center, the pervasive red glowing hydrogen gas, and the blue tinted dust that reflects the light of newborn stars. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 July 22 - NGC 1977: Blue Reflection Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The Orion Nebula is visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch near the famous belt of three stars in the Orion. The above picture captures a part of the Orion Nebula that primarily reflects light from bright Orion stars. This reflection nebula appears blue because the blue light from the neighboring stars scatters more efficiently from nebula gas than does red light. The dark lanes are composed of mostly interstellar dust - fine needle-shaped carbon grains.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 May 4 - Protoplanetary Survivors in Orion
Explanation: The Orion Nebula is a nuturing stellar nursery filled with hot young stars and their natal clouds of gas and dust. But for planetary systems, the active star-forming region can present a hazardous and inhospitable birthplace. While the formation of dusty protoplanetary disks seems common in Orion, these Hubble Space Telescope close-up images dramatically reveal the torturous conditions they must face while trying to grow into full-fledged planetary systems. In each case, a central young star is surrounded by a disk substantially wider than our solar system. The disks likely contain material in the process of planet formation. However, withering ultraviolet radiation from one of Orion's nearby hot stars is rapidly destroying the disks -- ultimately creating the comet-shaped clouds of glowing gas seen engulfing the protoplanetary systems. Planet formation must occur quickly here, if at all. Researchers estimate that about 90 percent of Orion's youngest protoplanetary disks will not survive the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2001 January 30 - The Orion Nebula from VLT
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a colorful place. Visible to the unaided eye, it appears as a small fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion. But this image, a representative-color composite of 81 near-infrared light images taken with VLT's ISAAC, shows the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. The eerie blue glow surrounding the bright stars pictured here is their own starlight reflected by nearby dust. Dark brown dust filaments cover much of the region. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 22 - The Orion Nebula in Hydrogen
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion can be found just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. This fuzzy patch, visible to the unaided eye, contains one of the closest stellar nurseries, lying at a distance of about 1500 light years. The above picture highlights red light emitted by the nebula's hydrogen gas. Dark dust filaments punctuate regions of this glowing hydrogen gas and reflect light from the nebula's brightest stars. Recent observations of the Orion Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope have located solar-system sized regions that are thought to be planet-forming circumstellar disks.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 November 20 - A 2000 Leonid Through Orion
Explanation: The Leonid Meteor Shower this year could be described as good but not great. During November 17 and 18 the Earth crossed through several streams of sand-sized grit left orbiting the Sun by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Several distinct peaks in meteor activity were reported, with rates approaching 400 meteors per hour for brief periods for some dark locations. Pictured above, a Leonid meteor was caught from Florida streaking through the constellation of Orion on the morning of 2000 November 18. Visible as a red-tinged smudge to the left of the three nearly linear stars that compose Orion's belt is the picturesque star-forming region known as the Orion Nebula. Next year, the Leonids Meteor Shower is expected by many to be much more active.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 August 27 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the black indentation to the red emission nebula seen just to the right of center of the above photograph. The bright star near the center is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud which lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae, which preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 May 6 - The Heart Of Orion
Explanation: Newborn stars lie at at the heart of the the Orion Nebula, hidden from view by the dust and gas of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud number 1 (OMC-1). Sensitive to invisible infrared wavelengths, Hubble's NICMOS camera can explore the interior of OMC-1 detecting the infrared radiation from infant star clusters and the interstellar dust and atoms energized by their intense starlight. In this false color picture, stars and the glowing dust clouds which also scatter the starlight appear yellowish orange while emission from hydrogen gas is blue. The dramatic image reveals a wealth of details, including many filaments and arcs of gas and dust -- evidence of violent motions stirred-up by the emerging stars. The bright object near the center is the massive young star "BN" (named for its discoverers Becklin and Neugebauer). The pattern of speckles and ripples surrounding BN and other bright stars are image artifacts.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 March 31 - Free Floating Planets In Orion
Explanation: This false-colour image of the young Trapezium star cluster in the Orion Nebula was made with an infrared camera at wavelengths about twice as long as visible light. The infrared data are part of a sensitive survey of this nearby star forming region in which astronomers have identified over 100 extremely low mass objects -- candidates for elusive brown dwarf stars. Brown dwarfs are failed stars with masses so low (about 8% of the Sun's) that they can not sustain nuclear hydrogen burning, a sun-like star's main energy source. While brown dwarfs are thought to be still massive enough to burn deuterium for energy, thirteen of the low mass objects show evidence of lying below even the deuterium burning limit (about 1.3% of the Sun's mass) falling in a range more commensurate with giant planets. These drifting, "free-floating planets" are perhaps as little as 8 times as massive as Jupiter and likely formed along with the cluster stars a million or so years ago. They are detectable in the infrared because they are still hot from formation, but will eventually cool and fade. If the Trapezium is typical of young star clusters, then the survey results suggest that brown dwarfs and free-floating planets may be fairly common, but there are not enough to solve the mystery of dark matter in the Universe.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 March 13 - A Panorama of Oddities in Orion A
Explanation: New stars, fast jets, and shocked gas clouds all occupy Orion A, a giant molecular cloud just south of the Orion Nebula. The bright object visible below and slightly left of center of this recently released picture is the reflection nebula NGC 1999. Wind from NGC 1999's central star, V380 Orionis, appears to have created the surrounding billows of red and brown gas. Several bright young stars illuminate reflecting dust at the top right of the image. Jets shoot from dozens of young stars creating glowing compressed shocked waves known Herbig-Haro objects. One such shock is the unusual Waterfall, the bright streak on the upper right, which is a source of unusual radio waves. The cone-shaped shock to the Waterfall's lower right may result from a jet emitted HH1 and HH2, located 10 light-years away below NGC 1999. The unusual and energetic oddities that occur and interact in star forming regions are often as complex as they are beautiful.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 March 2 - NGC 1999: Reflection Nebula In Orion
Explanation: A dusty bright nebula contrasts dramatically with a dusty dark nebula in this Hubble Space Telescope image recorded shortly after December's orbital servicing mission. The nebula, cataloged as NGC 1999, is a reflection nebula, which shines by reflecting light from a nearby star. Unlike emission nebulae, whose reddish glow comes from excited atoms of gas, reflection nebulae have a bluish cast as their interstellar dust grains preferentially reflect blue starlight. While perhaps the most famous reflection nebulae surround the bright young stars of the Pleiades star cluster, NGC 1999's stellar illumination is provided by the embedded variable star V380 Orionis, seen here just left of center. Extending right of center, the ominous dark nebula is actually a condensation of cold molecular gas and dust so thick and dense that it blocks light. From our perspective it lies in front of the bright nebula, silhouetted against the ghostly nebular glow. New stars will likely form within the dark cloud, called a Bok globule, as self-gravity continues to compress its dense gas and dust. Reflection nebula NGC 1999 lies about 1500 light-years away in the constellation Orion, just south of Orion's well known emission nebula, M42.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: 2000 February 4 - X-Ray Stars Of Orion
Explanation: The stars of Orion shine brightly in northern winter skies where the constellation harbors the closest large stellar nursery, the Great Nebula of Orion, a mere 1500 light-years away. In fact, the apparently bright clump of stars near the center of this Chandra X-ray telescope picture of a portion of the nebula are the massive stars of the Trapezium - the young star cluster which powers much of the nebula's visible-light glow. But the sheer number of other stars seen in this X-ray image, which spans about 10 light-years, has surprised and delighted astronomers and this picture was recently touted as the richest field of X-ray sources ever recorded in a single observation. The picture does dramatically illustrate that young stars are prodigious sources of X-rays, thought to be produced in hot stellar coronas and surface flares in a young star's strong magnetic field. Our middle-aged Sun itself was probably thousands of times brighter in X-rays when, like the Trapezium stars, it was only a few million years old. The dark lines through the image are instrumental artifacts.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: September 24, 1999 - Cometary Globules In Orion
Explanation: Intense ultraviolet light from massive, hot stars in the Orion region has sculpted and compressed clouds of dust and gas in to distinctively shaped Cometary Globules. Seen in this IRAS infrared image recorded at a wavelength sensitive to emission from dust, the elongated globules are easily visible along with a bright region which corresponds to the Trapezium star cluster. Otherwise known as the Witch Head Nebula, IC 2118 is the string of globules near the middle right. Suggestively similar to comets in general appearance only, Cometary Globules are interstellar condensations on a vastly different scale. These are likely related to star formation episodes in the Orion molecular cloud. Besides those indicated by the arrows, more comet-shaped clouds or globules are present in this image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: September 14, 1999 - The Colorful Orion Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is a colorful place. Visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch in the constellation of Orion, this image taken with the Big Throughput Camera shows the Orion Nebula to be a busy neighborhood of young stars, hot gas, and dark dust. The power behind much of the Orion Nebula (M42) is the Trapezium - four of the brightest stars in the nebula. The eerie blue glow surrounding the bright stars pictured here is their own starlight reflected by nearby dust. Hot oxygen and hydrogen gases cause the extended green and pink glows, respectively. Dark brown dust filaments cover much of the region. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 22, 1999 - M42: A Mosaic of Orion's Great Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulae. Here, 15 pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope have been mosaicked to cover the inner 2.5 light years of the nebula and illustrate its diverse nature. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Most of the filamentary structures visible in this image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. Shocks are particularly apparent near the bright stars in the lower left of the picture. The Orion Nebula is about 1500 light years distant, located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 20, 1999 - Aurora and Orion
Explanation: Looking toward the south from low Earth orbit, the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor made this stunning time exposure of the Aurora Australis or southern lights in April of 1994. Aurora are visible at high northern latitudes as well, with the northern lights known as Aurora Borealis. They are caused by high energy electrons from the Solar Wind which are funneled into the atmosphere near the poles by the Earth's magnetic field. The reddish colors occur at the highest altitudes (about 200 miles) where the air is least dense. At lower altitudes and greater densities green tends to dominate ranging to a pinkish glow at the lowest. The familiar constellation of Orion the Hunter is clearly visible above the dark horizon in the background. Because of the shuttle's orbital motion, the bright stars in Orion appear slightly elongated.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 2, 1999 - The Orion Nebula from Subaru
Explanation: The Orion Nebula (M42) shows a host of treasures when viewed in infrared light. Some stars in the Trapezium, an open cluster of stars at the center, are only visible in infrared light. The orange feature above center is called the Kleinman-Low Nebula, and appears greatly affected by newly forming central star IRc2. The blue emission in this representative color photograph is caused by hot gas ionized by the Trapezium stars. This is one of the first photographs ever taken through Japan's new Subaru Telescope.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 15, 1999 - Reflections Of Orion
Explanation: The Orion Nebula and its surroundings present skygazers with a wondrous jumble of newborn stars, gas, and dust. Emission nebulae - glowing energized clouds of gas, and reflection nebulae - dust clouds shining by reflected starlight, abound at this photogenic cosmic location a mere 1,500 light-years or so away. This telescopic image reveals an intriguing nebulosity which seems to consist of dust clouds illuminated not by starlight but by the light of the Orion Nebula itself. In non-telescopic views, the bright group of stars near the top appear as the northernmost star in Orion's sword. They are seen here illuminating the nearby dust clouds. Yet the yellowish streamers of dust across the middle reflect the light of the Orion Nebula, which lies just off the bottom edge of the photo.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 3, 1999 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the black indentation to the red emission nebula seen just to the right of center of the above photograph. The bright star near the center is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud which lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae, which preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: August 29, 1998 - Orion Star Colours
Explanation: What determines a star's colour? Its temperature. Red stars are cool, around 3,000 kelvins (K), while blue stars are hotter and can have temperatures over 30,000 K. Our own lovely yellow Sun's temperature is a comforting 6,000 K. Differences in star colours are dramatically illustrated in the above photo of the constellation Orion, made using a "star trail step-focus" technique. In this technique, a time exposure is used to create star trails, but during the exposure, the focus is changed in steps. For the brighter stars, the blurred image produces more saturated colours in photographs. At the upper left, the cool red supergiant Betelgeuse stands out from the other, hotter, bluish stars composing the body of the constellation. Bright Rigel, a blue supergiant, is at the lower right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 31, 1998 - IRAS Orion
Explanation: Do you recognize the constellation Orion? This striking but unfamiliar looking picture of the familiar Orion region of the sky was produced using survey data from the InfraRed Astronomical Satellite (IRAS). It combines information recorded at three different invisible infrared wavelengths in a red, green, and blue color scheme and covers about 30x24 degrees on the sky. Most of Orion's visually impressive stars don't stand out, but bright Betelgeuse does appear as a small purplish dot just above center. Immediately to the right of Betelgeuse and prominent in the IRAS skyview, expanding debris from a stellar explosion, a supernova remnant, is seen as a large bright ring-shaped feature. The famous gas clouds in Orion's sword glow brightly as the yellow regions at the lower right. No longer operational, IRAS used a telescope cooled by liquid helium to detect celestial infrared radiation.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 12, 1998 - Orion Nebula: The 2MASS View
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away. This distinctively detailed image of the Orion Nebula was constructed using data from the 2 Micron All Sky Survey or 2MASS. Now underway with telescopes in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of planet Earth, the 2MASS project will map the entire sky in infrared light. The wavelength of infrared light is longer than visible light but more easily penetrates obscuring dust clouds. 2MASS cameras are sensitve to near infrared wavelengths around 2 microns or about 0.00008 inches. Visible light has a wavelength of about 0.00002 inches. Survey observations in three infrared bands were translated to blue, green, and red colors to produce this composite image.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: June 4, 1998 - Comet SOHO and Nebulae in Orion
Explanation: Astrophotographer Michael Horn captured this gorgeous view of comet SOHO in the dark night sky above Wandibindle, Queensland, Australia on May 23rd. On this date, comet SOHO was moving against the background of the nebula-rich constellation of Orion. South is up in the picture which shows SOHO's bright head or coma and long tail extending past the glowing gas clouds and dark dust lanes of the Flame and Horsehead nebulae. Alnitak, the bright star above and to the right of the cometary coma, is also known as Zeta Orionis, the eastern-most of the three stars in Orion's belt. Southern Hemisphere observers report that comet SOHO has recently undergone a dramatic increase in brightness.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 21, 1998 - Water From Orion
Explanation: Is Orion all wet? Recent observations have confirmed that water molecules now exist in the famous Orion Nebula, and are still forming. The Orion Nebula (M42, shown above) is known to be composed mostly of hydrogen gas, with all other atoms and molecules being comparatively rare. The nebula is so vast, though, that even the measured minuscule production rate creates enough water to fill Earth's oceans 60 times over every day, speculate discoverers led by M. Harwit (Cornell). The water that composes comets, the oceans of Earth, and even humans may have been created in a cloud like the Orion Nebula.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: February 1, 1998 - NGC 1977: Blue Reflection Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The Orion Nebula is visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch near the famous belt of three stars in the constellation Orion. The above picture captures a part of the Orion Nebula that primarily reflects light from bright Orion stars. This reflection nebula appears blue because the blue light from the neighboring stars scatters more efficiently from nebula gas than does red light. The dark lanes are composed of mostly interstellar dust - fine needle-shaped carbon grains.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 27, 1998 - The Great Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion can be found just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. This fuzzy patch contains one of the closest stellar nurseries, lying at a distance of about 1500 light years. In the above picture, the red region on the left consists of nebulae designated M42 and M43 and contains the bright Trapezium open cluster. The blue region on the right is a nebula primarily reflecting the light from internal bright stars. Recent observations of the Orion Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope have located solar-system sized star-forming regions.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 1, 1997 - Orion: The Big Picture
Explanation: Orion is big. Some of the stars that form the constellation of Orion are part of a giant gas cloud complex that stretches over 100 light years and appears more than 50 times the diameter of the Moon. Components of this cloud include the Horsehead Nebula, the Orion Nebula, the Trapezium open cluster, and small disks containing stellar systems which are just forming. At 1500 light years, Orion is the closest star forming region to Earth. Close inspection of the photo's center should reveal the three stars which form the belt of Orion.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 25, 1997 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is one of the most famous nebulae on the sky. It is visible as the black indentation to the red emission nebula seen just to the right of center of the above photograph. The bright star near the center is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud which lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae, which preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 23, 1997 - The Heart Of Orion
Explanation: Newborn stars lie at the heart of the Orion Nebula, hidden from view by the dust and gas of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud number 1 (OMC-1). Sensitive to invisible infrared wavelengths, Hubble's recently installed NICMOS camera can explore the interior of OMC-1 detecting the infrared radiation from infant star clusters and the interstellar dust and atoms energized by their intense starlight. In this false color picture, stars and the glowing dust clouds which also scatter the starlight appear yellowish orange while emission from hydrogen gas is blue. The dramatic image reveals a wealth of details, including many filaments and arcs of gas and dust -- evidence of violent motions stirred-up by the emerging stars. The bright object near the center is the massive young star "BN" (named for its discoverers Becklin and Neugebauer). The pattern of speckles and ripples surrounding BN and other bright stars are image artifacts.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: May 11, 1997 - M42: A Mosaic of Orion's Great Nebula
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, an immense, nearby starbirth region, is probably the most famous of all astronomical nebulae. Here, 15 pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope have been mosaicked to cover the inner 2.5 light years of the nebula and illustrate its diverse nature. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, the Orion Nebula contains many stellar nurseries. These nurseries contain hydrogen gas, hot young stars, proplyds, and stellar jets spewing material at high speeds. Most of the filamentary structures visible in this image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. Shocks are particularly apparent near the bright stars in the lower left of the picture. The Orion Nebula is about 1500 light years distant, located in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 29, 1997 - Hale-Bopp and Orion
Explanation: Comet Hale-Bopp is still brighter than most constellations. In fact, Comet Hale-Bopp may now hold the record for staying bright the longest. Last week the comet was photographed above in the same field as the constellation Orion, visible in the photograph's center, as well as with Sirius, the brightest star in the night, visible on the far left. Just below Comet Hale-Bopp on the right is the volcanic caldera known as White Mountain.. As the comet heads south, it has become visible to most of the world, now including many observers in the Earth's Southern Hemisphere.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: January 26, 1997 - Aurora and Orion
Explanation: Looking toward the south from low Earth orbit, the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor made this stunning time exposure of the Aurora Australis or southern lights in April of 1994. Aurora are visible at high northern latitudes as well, with the northern lights known as Aurora Borealis. They are caused by high energy electrons from the Solar Wind which are funneled into the atmosphere near the poles by the Earth's magnetic field. The reddish colors occur at the highest altitudes (about 200 miles) where the air is least dense. At lower altitudes and greater densities green tends to dominate ranging to a pinkish glow at the lowest. The familiar constellation of Orion the Hunter is clearly visible above the dark horizon in the background. Because of the shuttle's orbital motion, the bright stars in Orion appear slightly elongated.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 7, 1996 - Planetary Systems Now Forming in Orion
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.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: December 2, 1996 - Orion's Star Colors
Explanation: What determines a star's color? Its temperature. Red stars are cool, with temperatures of around 3,000 kelvins (K), while blue stars are hotter and can have temperatures over 30,000 degrees K. Our own lovely yellow Sun's temperature is a comforting 6,000 K. Differences in star colors are dramatically illustrated in the above photo of the constellation Orion, made using a "star trail step-focus" technique. In this technique, a time exposure is used to create star trails, but during the exposure, the focus is changed in steps. For the brighter stars, the blurred image produces more saturated colors in photographs. At the upper left, the cool red supergiant Betelgeuse stands out from the other, hotter, bluish stars composing the body of the constellation. Bright Rigel, a blue supergiant, is at the lower right.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: October 2, 1996 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The Horsehead Nebula is arguably the most famous nebula on the sky. It is visible as the black indentation to the red emission nebula seen just to the right of center of the above photograph. The bright star near the center is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse-head feature is dark because it is really an opaque dust cloud which lies in front of the bright red emission nebula. Like clouds in Earth's atmosphere, this cosmic cloud has assumed a recognizable shape by chance. After many thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae, which preferentially reflect the blue light from nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: April 18, 1996 - Hyakutake, Venus, Orion, and Pond
Explanation: Can you find Comet Hyakutake in the above picture? In this gorgeous photo, the starry night sky of April 9th is pictured with its new comet visitor. In the foreground is a pond with the lights of Kansas City, Missouri on the western horizon. On the upper left, the constellation of Orion is visible. At the center, the brightest object in the picture is the planet Venus. Venus's reflection can be seen in the pond. On the right - halfway between Venus and the photograph's edge - can be seen two bright objects fairly close to each other. Of these two, look closely at lower right object. See the tail? Comet Hyakutake is still visible for Northern observers in the Western sky and now has begun to brighten again as it nears the Sun.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: March 20, 1996 - NGC 1977: Blue Reflection Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The Orion Nebula is visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch near the famous belt of three stars in the constellation Orion. The above picture captures a part of the Orion Nebula that primarily reflects light from bright Orion stars. This reflection nebula appears blue because the blue light from the neighboring stars scatters more efficiently from nebula gas than does red light. The dark lanes are composed of mostly interstellar dust - fine needle-shaped carbon grains.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 21, 1995 - M42: Orion Nebula Mosaic
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion is one of the most interesting of all astronomical nebulae known. Here fifteen pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope have been merged to show the great expanse and diverse nature of the nebula. In addition to housing a bright open cluster of stars known as the Trapezium, 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. It takes light about 1500 years to reach us from there.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: November 14, 1995 - Aurora and Orion
Explanation: Looking toward the south from low Earth orbit, the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavor made this stunning time exposure of the Aurora Australis (southern lights) in April of 1994. The aurora are caused by high energy electrons from the Solar Wind which are funneled into the atmosphere by the Earth's magnetic field. The reddish colors occur at the highest altitudes (about 200 miles) where the air is least dense. At lower altitudes and greater densities green tends to dominate. At the lowest altitudes a pinkish glow is sometimes produced. The familiar constellation of Orion the Hunter is clearly visible above the dark horizon in the background. Because of the shuttle's orbital motion, the bright stars in Orion appear slightly elongated.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: September 25, 1995 - Orion's Horsehead Nebula
Explanation: The black indentation to the red emission nebula seen just to the right of center of the above photograph is one of the most famous features in any nebulae on the sky. Because of its shape, it is known as the Horsehead Nebula. The bright star near the center is located in the belt of the familiar constellation of Orion. The horse head feature is dark because it is really a dense dust cloud which lies in front of the bright nebula and blocks the light. Like clouds in our sky, this cosmic cloud has chanced to assume a recognizable shape. After thousands of years, the internal motions of the cloud will alter its appearance. The emission nebula's red color is caused by electrons recombining with protons to form hydrogen atoms. Also visible in the picture are blue reflection nebulae. This type of nebula contains dust which preferentially reflects the blue light of nearby stars.

Thumbnail image of picture found for this day. APOD: July 3, 1995 - The Great Nebula in Orion
Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, M42, can be found on the night sky just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. This nebula is one of the closest stellar nurseries - where young stars are being formed even now. Clumps of gas (mostly hydrogen and helium) and dust in the nebula are squeezed together by their own gravity until they collapse and form stars. Some stars we can see here partially obscured by the nebula, are only about 100,000 years old - just babies compared to the 5 billion (5,000,000,000) years of our Sun.


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