The Amazing Orion Nebula As Seen By Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes

On January 2017, the Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescope missions released an amazing flythrough of the Orion Nebula, or M42. Never before have we had such an amazing view in the infrared of this stunning stellar nursery.

Published on 12th Jan, 2018

We live in a golden age of astronomy. For the first time in our history, humanity finally has the tools we need to uncover details of the cosmos that have, until now, been hidden from us. As we look deep into the heavens with our powerful space telescopes using special filters that can record light our eyes cannot see, treasures of beauty are unveiled that are not only spectacular, but provide astronomers with data vital in helping us understand how our universe works. Here is a stunning example of actual data taken from the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. Hubble recorded the familiar Orion Nebula in visible light while Spitzer saw it in infrared, a wavelength we cannot see with our eyes. Hubble observations show the familiar shape of the nebula we are used to seeing in most images taken of this gas cloud: a large stellar nursery some 1,350 light years away and, in visible light at least, is 24 light years across. And when we add Spitzer’s data, we something more: a larger, extended region expanding much further out. By combining these two high resolution datasets, for the first time, we can fly through them to see what’s happening inside the nebula at both wavelengths. Removing Spitzer data uncovers the stars forming underneath. This is what Hubble sees, this is actual data. No simulations. This is the gas and dust from which new stars are born. Flying low over the clouds, an enormous cavity light years across is created by new stars and blown out by their stellar winds. This cluster of stars is brand new and contains some 700 stars in various stages of formation. Around some of them, bright arcs - or bowshocks - formed by the strong winds from the stars sweeping out surrounding material can be seen. Dark protoplanetary disks, or proplyds mark our journey. These are infant solar systems forging new planets around adolescent stars. Some 180 of these have been seen by Hubble. The Orion Nebula can be seen by the naked eye. On a clear, dark night, just look up in the sword of Orion and there it is. While it’s been viewed by humans since ancient times, it was first observed in a telescope by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peirsec on the 26th of November 1610 and Charles Messier noted it on March 4, 1789 as the 42nd object in his famous catalogue. Since then, we’ve used every telescope imaginable to peer into the depths and explore the mysteries of this cosmic wonder. And with these observations from Hubble and Spitzer, we have a view our ancestors could only come from the golden age of astronomy. Music used: "Signals" - Ancient Eyes Music "Roten Himmel" - The Gateless Gate NASA Press Release: