A new image combining previously published data from three telescopes shows a region that includes the Orion Nebula, named after the mighty hunter in Greek mythology who was struck down by a scorpion sting. But the story of how this dusty region came to be is just as dramatic.
The Orion Nebula is located in the constellation Orion, which takes the appearance of a hunter raising a club and shield towards an unseen target. three stars online together they are known as Orion’s belt; the region shown in the image aligns with another series of stars perpendicular to the belt, known as Orion’s sword. If you could see it in the sky, the region would appear the size of the full moon.
two huge caverns that dominate the cloud were gouged out by giant stars (not seen in this image) that can release up to a million times more light than our Sun. All that radiation breaks up the dust grains there, helping to create the pair of cavities. Much of the remaining dust is blown away by winds from stars or when stars die explosively as supernovae.
Blue light in these areas indicates warm dust. Observed in infrared light, a range of wavelengths outside of what human eyes can detect, the views were provided by the Spitzer Space Telescope retired NASA and Wide-field Infrared Inspection Explorer (WISE), now operating under the name NEOWISE. Spitzer and WISE were managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California.
Around the edge of the two cavernous regions, the dust that appears green is slightly cooler. Red indicates cold dust reaching temperatures of about minus 260 degrees Celsius. The red and green light shows data from the now-retired Herschel Space Telescope, an ESA (European Space Agency) observatory that captured wavelengths of light in the far-infrared and microwave ranges, where cold dust is irradiated. Herschel’s large mirror provided high-resolution views of these clouds, which are full of contours, nooks and crannies. The cold dust appears mainly on the outskirts of the dust cloud, far from the regions where stars form.
Between the two hollow regions there are orange filaments where dust condenses and forms new stars. Over time, these filaments can produce new giant stars that will once again reshape the region.
Launched in 2009, the WISE spacecraft went into hibernation in 2011 after completing its primary mission. In September 2013, NASA reactivated the spaceship with the primary goal of searching for near-Earth objects, or NEOs, and the mission and spacecraft were renamed NEOWISE.
The mission was selected competitivelye under the NASA Explorer Program managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.