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)

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

The Orion Nebula Seen in Infrared and Visible Light

VISTA — the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy is the largest survey telescope in the world and is dedicated to mapping the sky at infrared wavelengths. The large (4.1-metre) mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors make VISTA a unique instrument. This dramatic image of the Orion Nebula illustrates VISTA’s remarkable powers.

The Orion Nebula is a vast stellar nursery lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. Although the nebula is spectacular when seen through an ordinary telescope, what can be seen using visible light is only a small part of a cloud of gas in which stars are forming. Most of the action is deeply embedded in dust clouds and to see what is really happening astronomers need to use telescopes with detectors sensitive to the longer wavelength radiation that can penetrate the dust. VISTA has imaged the Orion Nebula at wavelengths about twice as long as can be detected by the human eye.

Credit: ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA & R. Gendler