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How Spitzer and Hubble created a colorful masterpiece of the Orion Nebula.

20230725 212649 InfinityCosmos
20230725 212649 InfinityCosmos

Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what lies beyond? Well, thanks to NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, we can now get a glimpse of something truly remarkable. A new image captured by these two amazing tools is looks more like an abstract painting than cosmic snapshot. It depicts the Orion nebula in a spectacular display of infrared, ultraviolet and visible-light colors. Hundreds of baby stars are responsible for creating this magnificent masterpiece. Ultra-violet light and strong stellar winds serve as the brushstrokes.

At the center of this amazing work of art is a set of four massive stars known as the Trapezium. These stars are 100,000 times brighter than our sun. If you look closely, you can see them as a yellow smudge near the middle of the composite. The green swirls in the image were spotted by Hubble’s ultraviolet and visible-light detectors. They are created by heated hydrogen and sulfur gases due to the intense ultra-violet radiation emitted from the Trapezium’s stars. The red wisps seen in the composition were detected by Spitzer and are due to infrared light from illuminated clouds containing carbon-rich molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are also found on Earth, such as burnt toast and automobile exhaust.

The composite also shows numerous stars scattered throughout in a rainbow of colors. Spitzer exposed infant stars deeply embedded in a cocoon of dust and gas (orange-yellow dots). Hubble found less embedded stars (specks of green) and stars in the foreground (blue). Stellar winds from clusters of newborn stars are responsible for etching all of the well-defined ridges and cavities throughout the image. Thanks to modern day technology, we can now capture images that look like they belong in an art gallery rather than in a science book. It’s truly amazing how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time!

Exploring the Orion Nebula.

One of the most captivating parts of space is located 1,500 light-years away from Earth: The Orion Nebula, a cosmic cloud that is home to some of the most stunning sights in the universe. The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest stars in the constellation known as “The Sword of the Hunter” and can be seen from northern latitudes during fall and winter nights. It is actually invisible to the naked eye but can be resolved with binoculars or a small telescope. Scientists believe that there are about 1,000 young stars in the Orion Nebula, making it an incredible star formation factory.

To further explore this distant beauty, scientists have used a false color composite technique to capture its amazing features. This technique involves capturing light at various wavelengths of 0.43, 0.50, 0.53 microns (blue), 0.6, 0.65, and 0.91 microns (green), 3.6 microns (orange), and 8-micron light (red). This false-color composite shows off the details of the Orion Nebula in a way that would otherwise be impossible to see with the naked eye.

The Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been using their cutting-edge technology to study this breathtaking nebula in further detail. The Spitzer Space Telescope is managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate while science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at California Institute of Technology. The Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project between NASA and European Space Agency and is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Incorporated in Washington DC.

So why should we keep studying this distant beauty? As one of our closest massive star-formation factories, the Orion Nebula provides us with an incredible opportunity to learn more about star formation and explore our universe further. By studying this nebula, we can gain insight into some of our most fundamental questions about space and life beyond our planet.

How Spitzer and Hubble created a colorful masterpiece of the Orion Nebula.

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