"Flying" into the Orion Nebula
This animation was produced by Walt Feimer in the Astronomy Visualization Laboratory at the Space Telescope Science Institute. It begins with a ``backyard'' view of the sky around the constellation Orion (by Skip Westphal, ST ScI) and a more detailed view of the Orion Nebula, also known as M42 and NGC 1976, taken with the 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory. A spectacular cloud of gas surrounds several very hot stars in the star cluster deep within the nebula. The nebula's constituent gases include hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon, neon, nitrogen, sulphur, argon, and chlorine; the density of these gases is above the critical limit required for stars to form within the nebula. Visible to the naked eye as the middle ``star'' in the ``sword'' of the constellation Orion, the nebula is located 1500 light years from Earth.
An image taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 aboard the Hubble Space Telescope (C.R. O'Dell, Rice University) provides a more detailed view of the Nebula. The final sequence, from details of the HST image, show several protoplanetary disks or ``proplyds'' and finally a single dark disk surrounding a central star.
Publication: June 13, 1994