Orion-Nebula

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Look at how far astrophotography and telescopic observations have come in less than 200 years 

Top photos: (Left) First photograph ever taken of the Orion Nebula, by Professor Henry Draper in 1880. (Right) The Orion Nebula taken with an exposure of one hour, by A.A. Common in 1883. (Source)

Middle photo: A 3-minute exposure of the nebula taken with a Canon 400D, by Rogelio Bernal Andreo in 2007. (Source)

Bottom photo (gif): The Orion Nebula in visible and infrared light taken by the VISTA telescope in 2010. (Source)

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Messier 78 is a reflection nebula in the popular constellation Orion and a part of the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. A reflection nebula contains, as the name implies, clouds of interstellar gas that reflect the light of nearby stars.

How to find it:

Finding M78 is as easy as locating Orion’s “Belt” – the famous asterism of three stars. Simply identify Zeta Orionis (Alnitak) the easternmost of the trio and you’ll find it about 2 degrees (less than a thumb length) north and 1 ½ degrees (less two finger widths) east. However, seeing M78 isn’t as easy as finding it! Because it has a fairly low visual brightness and isn’t particularly large, you’ll need a dark night and good sky conditions. (Source)

Credit: ESO (Image, Video)

The Orion Bullets

Discovered in 1983, the Orion Bullets are clumps of gas ejected from deep within the Orion Nebula - located some 1500 light-years from our Solar System. The violence causing this is likely related to the recent formation of a cluster of massive stars with strong winds that can expel gas at supersonic speeds. The bullets (seen as distinctive blue features in the new Gemini image) are actually quite large, about 10 times the size of Pluto’s orbit around the Sun.

As the bullets speed outward, they leave behind distinctive tubular and cone-shaped wakes, which shine like tracers due to the bullets heating of the molecular hydrogen gas in the Orion Nebula. The wakes span much greater distances than the bullets, measuring as much as a fifth of a light-year in length. As Gemini first observed with Altair, the fingerlike wakes also resolve into filaments which are clearly resolved in the new Gemini GeMS image.


Image Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA