NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 10 March 2023: Orion and the Running Man Nebulae

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Space is an infinite void that extends beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. Despite being commonly perceived as empty, space is home to trillions of celestial objects such as stars, planets, and asteroids. The space between stars is known as Interstellar space, where nebulae can be found. Nebulae are regions where stars are formed, and they are primarily composed of hydrogen and helium gases. A single nebula can have as few as ten stars or as many as millions, according to NASA.

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day is a stellar snapshot of the Orion Nebula and the Running Man Nebula. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula is located about 1500 light-years away and spans about 40 light-years across. The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae and can even be seen with naked eye in a clear night sky. Another Nebula can be seen embedded in this region, known as the Running Man Nebula, which is the northmost part of the asterism known as Orion’s Sword.

The picture was captured by astrophotographer Abraham Jones on a January night in West Virginia, USA.

NASA’s description of the picture

Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like The Great Nebula in Orion. Visible as a faint celestial smudge to the naked-eye, the nearest large star-forming region sprawls across this sharp telescopic image, recorded on a cold January night in dark skies from West Virginia, planet Earth. Also known as M42, the Orion Nebula’s glowing gas surrounds hot, young stars. About 40 light-years across, it lies at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud only 1,500 light-years away within the same spiral arm of our Milky Way galaxy as the Sun.

Along with dusty bluish reflection nebula NGC 1977 and friends near the top of the frame, the eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of our galactic neighborhood’s wealth of star-forming material. Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant solar systems.

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