Orion nebula (M42), optical image. This is a huge starbirth region, where gas is coalescing to form new stars. Radiation from the hot young stars ionises the hydrogen gas in the nebula, causing it to emit red light. The stars powering this nebula are a tight cluster called the Trapezium, which occupies the white area at upper centre. The radiation pressure and stellar winds of the young stars have opened up a large cavity in the gas cloud from which they formed. At top, separated from M42 by a dark lane of dust, is the related nebula M43. These nebulae lie around 1600 light years from Earth in the constellation Orion.
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