ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J.-E. Ovaldsen, and A. Hornstrup

A purplish manta ray shape glides through the misty nebulae of the Trapezium Cluster in this image from the European Southern Observatory.

Explore the amazing colors, stars and dust clouds of this star-forming nursery. What shapes and stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

The Trapezium, or Orion Trapezium Cluster, is a tight open cluster of stars at the very heart of the Orion Nebula. The Trapezium is relatively young and formed out of the surrounding nebula. About 2,000 stars; some hiding in the dense dust, make up the loose grouping of stars. The five brightest stars are 15 to 30 times more massive than our Sun. Blazing ultraviolet light from these huge, bright stars light up most of the nebula. Hydrogen atoms, excited by the ultraviolet light, glow pink and purple in the image. Other elements such as helium, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen give other subtle shades of color in the gas.

Even though the Orion Nebula can be seen without a telescope as a hazy patch of light, no historical records seem to exist describing it. Galileo Galilei first sketched three of the stars of the Trapezium on February 4, 1617. But he missed the nebulosity surrounding them. Later in the 17th century, astronomers mapped a fourth star. As telescopes became better, more stars were discovered. Armed with a modest telescope, modern backyard telescopes can resolve six stars. But there is plenty more to explore within the great nebula.

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