• The powerful Hubble Space Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have been combined to capture stunning images of the Orion Nebula.
  • The nebula, an enormous mixture of different gases and hot materials surrounding the young stars, was launched at different wavelengths.
  • The image looks like a painting, but it’s actually something that exists, reminding us of just how beautiful space is.

Well, the new year is officially here, and while many places that traditionally celebrate the birth of a new set of 365 days have had to cancel their annual fireworks displays, you can always count on NASA to find some fireworks happening somewhere in the universe. In a new blog post, NASA chose to shine a light This amazing image is actually a combination of observations by both the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope.

The image of the Orion Nebula, which is a huge group of swirling gases surrounding some very small but very large stars. The two telescopes captured the same image at different wavelengths of light, providing us with a glimpse of this region of space like we’ve never seen it before.

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Nebulae are incredibly interesting features of the universe because they are basically the components that make up star systems and galaxies but have not yet fully fused into things like planets and stars. In this case, the Orion Nebula gave birth to a small, but very small number of stars.

NASA explains:

Gaseous swirls of hydrogen, sulfur, and hydrocarbons embrace a group of small stars in this composite image of the Orion Nebula, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Together, the two telescopes display carbon-rich particles in the cosmic cloud of this star-forming plant located 1,500 light-years away.

The UV and Hubble visible light view reveal hydrogen and sulfur gas that has been heated and ionized by the intense ultraviolet rays of massive stars, known collectively as the “trapezoid”. Meanwhile, Spitzer’s infrared view reveals the carbon-rich particles in the cloud. The telescopes together project the stars in the Orion as a rainbow of dots scattered throughout the image.

It’s impossible to say what billions of years ahead will bring, but if the nebula remains unperturbed by external forces, it will likely continue to form stars, and possibly the planets, moons, and asteroids that will orbit around them. We can’t know how much material is actually here, or what kind of planets and stars it might produce in the future, but for now, it’s still a very interesting area in the sky.

Cloudy Gemini Nebula

Studying regions like this, and the Orion Nebula in particular, gave scientists some powerful insights into the forces that build the things we see in the universe. It will continue to be observed for years, decades and perhaps centuries to come, and there is probably much more that it will eventually teach us.

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