The Orion Nebula
This page captured from the site at: http://www.astro.lsa.umich.edu/users/iotm/oct95/orion.html
Nearest, brightest and most spectacular of the gaseous nebulae, the
Orion Nebula is being carefully examined by astronomers who hope to
unlock the secrets of star birth. Within the nebula are found youthful
stars that have just begun to shine, stars-to-be that have not yet
flicked the `on' switch of their internal thermonuclear fires, and
even stars accompanied by surrounding material out of which planets
may be forming. This photograph was taken by the University of
Michigan's Prof. Patrick Seitzer with a Michigan owned telescope
located on a mountain top in Chile.
Observers viewing the constellation of Orion the Hunter are looking
toward a vast region in space of gaseous and dusty material that
spreads across the entire constellation about 1500 light years from
the Sun. The material is mostly dark and undetectable by human eyes,
except for a location in the Hunter's "sword," three stars that hang
from his three-starred belt. The Orion Nebula is in the middle of the
sword. At that position within the otherwise invisible material that
fills Orion's part of space, is a very hot blue star whose ultraviolet
light causes gas around it to glow brightly. The nebula's light
arises by a process that is similar to the operation of a neon sign.
Astronomers have learned that they can view the dark gas and dust
spreading through the constellation by making use of infrared
telescopes and radio telescopes. With such equipment they can
actually "see" the stars now forming out of the gas and dusty
material in Orion's part of space. The research is yielding important
knowledge about how our own Sun and planets may have been born.
Streaks in the image are caused by blemishes on the television detector.
- Magazine Article
An up-to-date view of the Orion Nebula by an astronomer who has been
studying it for 30 years is in Sky and Telescope Magazine
for December, 1994. See page 20, "Exploring the Orion Nebula."
Some general books containing material on nebulae like Orion are:
- The Greenwich Guide to Stars, Galaxies and Nebulae,
Stuart Malin, Cambridge University Press; Cambridge, England, 1989.
Contains the best color photographs of celestial objects ever taken
with major research telescopes.
- The Cambridge Deep Sky Album, Jack Newton and Philip
Teece, Astromedia, Milwaukee, WI, 1983. The night sky's landscape as
seen in a small telescope.
- Stars and Nebulas, William J. Kaufmann II, W. H.
Freeman; San Francisco, 1978. How stars are born from nebulae, and
how nebulae are produced when stars expire.
- Star Charts and Constellation Lore
Star charts for every month of the year and a daily calendar of celestial
events are found in:
- Astronomical Calendar, available from the Astronomical
Workshop, Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, 29613.
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Last update: 2 Nov 1995