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.
The Orion Nebula, seen in the photos above, is one of the most photographed and scrutinized objects in the night sky. Visible to the naked eye, it’s located just south of Orion’s Belt in the Constellation of Orion.