One of the largest gas-dust complexes in our Galaxy, the awesome Orion Nebula, M42, displays its colorful beauty from far into deep space. Although over 1500 light-years from Earth, the Orion Nebula is the closest of the many glowing clouds of gas in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Originally discovered in 1610, and in 1880 the first nebula to be photographed, Orion is visible to the naked eye in the winter constellation Orion as the middle, misty star in the hunter's sword.
Made of wisps of gas and dust, with a density far lower than the best vacuum possible on Earth, Orion's glow is caused by radiation from a grouping of very hot, O-type, young stars, within the Nebula.
Within the Nebula, new stars are condensing out of interstellar clouds. The young stars in turn light up the surrounding cloud, exciting atoms in the cloud into radiating light, by the same process that activates a neon light. The red hues in the cloud are caused by the emission of energy by atoms of hydrogen, the most abundant atom in the cloud. Stars are continuing to form in the Orion Nebula. Some of them, deep in the heart of the Nebula and detectable only by the heat they emit, started shining as little as 10,000 years ago.
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"I took your Orion Nebula to a frame shop & had it framed & My God is it Beautiful! Unlike most pictures I can sit & gaze at this beautiful sight to the exclusion of all else! I've had to give your address to all of my friends as they too, want this and others. As an amateur astronomer, what else can I say? I love it, and you! Keep up the good work! P.S. The picture really goes good with my furniture. It's almost as though it were made for my living room." - M.S., Aberdeen, SD
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