Glowing Globs in a Starry Sea

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Glowing globs of star stuff float in a starry sea in this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the curious features around young stars still in their dusty cocoons in the lesser-known Orion nebula, Messier 43. What stories and shapes do you see in this nebula? Leave a note below.

Several brilliant young stars show up in this image. These hot stars sculpt the clouds of gas and dust with their blistering solar winds. Searing ultraviolet radiation from these stars excites hydrogen atoms and other atoms in the cloud causing it to light with different colors. Because the Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, and M43 are so close to Earth, astronomers have been able to study the nebulae in detail. They can watch how solar winds move gas and dust, watch young stars as they evolve, and discover elusive objects such as brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are stars that lack the mass to cause nuclear fusion in their cores and shine on their own as full-fledged stars. They remain hot lumps of gas and dust within the cloud.

The Great Nebula in Orion and M43 are separated only by a massive dark lane of dust. Also known as De Mairan’s Nebula, after its discoverer French astronomer Jean-Jacques Dortous de Mairan in about 1731. The Nebula is part of the huge and nearby Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which includes the Great Nebula, M43, the Horsehead Nebula and the Flame Nebula. M43 lies only 1,400 light-years from Earth; very close in astronomical terms, toward the constellation of Orion the Hunter. Look for the three bright stars that form the belt of Orion tonight high in the southern sky an hour or so after sunset.

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The ancient peoples saw pictures in the sky. From those patterns in the heavens, ancient storytellers created legends about heroes, maidens, dragons, bears, centaurs, dogs and mythical creatures...
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