The Orion Nebula as you’ve never seen it before

The European Southern Observatory releases stunning new images of the nearest massive star formation region to Earth.

A dazzling panoramic view of the Orion Nebula.
A dazzling panoramic view of the Orion Nebula. (Click for full-screen view.)

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released a spectacular new still image and video of the Orion Nebula, combining 296 datasets gathered by three enormous astronomical telescopes.

The vision shows a panoramic view of the nebula, which is located about 1350 light years from Earth.

It shows clearly, in the upper left quadrant, the Trapezium Cluster, a group of hot blue-white stars that are only a couple of million years old.

Also visible are wispy, fibrous structures – long lines of cold gas that is destined to collapse under the weight of its own gravity, forming a proto-star.

The gas filaments can only be seen by observers using instruments working in the millimetre wavelength range. The nebula image contains data gathered by two such telescopes – ESO’s Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), and the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique’s 30-metre telescope.

These instruments contribute the red elements to the composite. The blue elements arise from data gathered by ESO’s Very Large Telescope, which uses the infrared end of the spectrum.

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