The Orion Nebula is a radiant swath of gas, dust, and baby stars that forms the middle stud in the “belt” of the constellation Orion. At 1,350 light years distant, it is one of the closest star factories to Earth, but even so, it’s not as if humans will be able to visit it in person anytime soon.
Embarking on a virtual plunge through the nebula, however, is a handy alternative for the armchair astronomer. On Wednesday, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) team released the above animated tour of this sparkling stellar nursery based on imagery collected both from the HST and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The visualization highlights young bright stars at the center of the cluster in optical wavelengths alongside a backdrop of cooler gas and dust, sculpted by stellar winds, in infrared.
Given that the Orion Nebula is one of the most popular celestial targets for both professional and amateur skywatchers, it’s a gratifying glimpse of what it might be like to see it up close.
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