Starry Nights - Rajesh Jyothiswaran

Visit to the Star Factory

Orion is visible in the northern hemisphere during the winter months early March was the latest reasonable time to image it. A few days ago, the weather changed and there was a narrow window of opportunity to image Orion. From about 8pm to 10 pm we had clear skies before clouds rolled in. The result of that session is this image. I was not planning to do so but by a happy coincidence, I was able to capture not just Orion but three other Nebulae in the picture. The most colorful one of course is Orion. Just above that is the Running Man Nebula named for the Running Man like feature in it.

At the very top of the image is the Flame Nebula, with those veins showing and below that side ways is the Horsehead Nebula. If you look closely, you will see the horse’s head sticking up though in this image, it is hanging towards the 4’O clock direction

Orion Nebula is a place where new stars are being born. The constellation is noticeable for three medium-bright stars in a short, straight row. These stars represent Orion’s Belt. If you look closely, you’ll notice a curved line of stars “hanging” from the three Belt stars. These stars represent Orion’s Sword. Look for the Orion Nebula about midway down in the Sword of Orion.

According to modern astronomers, the Orion Nebula is an enormous cloud of gas and dust, one of many in our Milky Way galaxy. It lies roughly 1,300 light-years from Earth which means the light we are seeing now left Orion 1300 years ago when some major world religions and most countries were not even born.

At some 30 to 40 light-years in diameter, this great big nebulous cocoon is giving birth to perhaps a thousand stars. A young open star cluster, whose stars were born at the same time from a portion of the nebula and are still loosely bound by gravity, can be seen within the nebula. It is sometimes called the Orion Nebula Star Cluster. In 2012, an international team of astronomers suggested this cluster in the Orion Nebula might have a black hole at its heart.

The dark-sky aficionado Stephen James O’Meara described it as: … angel’s breath against a frosted sky. (Source: earthsky.org)

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