RUSSELL CROMAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL CROMAN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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 gases in the nebula, causing it to emit light. The emitting gases have been colour- coded: sulphur (red), hydrogen (green) and oxygen (blue). The stars powering this nebula are a tight cluster called the Trapezium, which occupies the blue area at upper centre. 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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