If you thought it was just one rich region in space, look deeper and wider.
Shining brilliantly in January’s skies is the Great Orion Nebula.
Located just over 1,000 light-years away, it’s the closest major star-forming region to Earth.
It includes the Northern Hemisphere’s most prominent, reliable winter sights.
The main nebula, Messier 42, is visible to the naked eye.
Through a telescope, its features are spectacular.
The bright Trapezium star cluster lights up the nebula’s center.
The oldest of these stars formed just 12 million years ago.
The Orion Nebula is laden with protoplanetary disks: future solar systems.
Visible light views showcase stars, emission, and reflection nebulae.
Infrared views see through the dust, revealing ongoing regions of star formation.
Next door is Messier 43, separated from the main nebula by a single large dust lane.
All this is included within the greater Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.
Approximately 400 light-years across, it’s rich in notable astronomical objects.
The dark Horsehead Nebula silhouettes a background emission nebula.
Nearby, the Flame Nebula is illuminated by a nearby blue star.
Young stars exhibiting shocks — Herbig-Haro stars — are common here.
Brilliant blue reflection nebulae, like Messier 78, are also ubiquitous.
Spanning over 100 square degrees, the Orion Complex is the largest single structure visible from Earth.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.