Orion Nebula – Case study

orion nebula from starry night copyCredit. Note that this is the Northern Hemisphere view
and that Orion is "upside down" on the Southern Hemisphere


The Orion nebula (or Messier 42) is one of the closest regions for studying the process of star formation. It can give us an idea how our own Sun and solar system formed and it is also the nearest location to us where we can see the most massive stars form. It is an ideal location to study star formation in a multitude of different gas and dust environments.

As viewed from Earth the Orion nebula is located in the Orion constellation. It lies at a distance of 1,500 light years and is about 35 light-years in diameter. The brightest stars near the centre (the Trapezium stars) have formed from massive clouds and these stars are so hot that they illuminate the remaining gas and dust.

Hundreds of stars have been found that are in various stages of formation in this nebula. Also many proto-planetary disks are seen that reveal how solar systems form.






800px Orion Nebula Hubble 2006 mosaic 18000
Watch a Slide show here.


More Information
Further reading here

Take a trip through the Orion Nebula

and a 360 degree version

It is important to note with these animations that the true scale of what you see is incomprehensible. These “fly through’s” are at super-luminous speeds and therefore very unrealistic. If you would really fly there you would see almost nothing because everything is so far apart, and it would take you much more than your life time to get through.

Watch a detailed lecture on star formation in general and especially in the Orion Nebula (edited from here). It also emphasises the use of multi-wavelength astronomy to study star formation. (from 18:50 until 1:02:00 or edit and upload.)