Great Orion Nebula
Messier-Catalog: M42 / M 43
Constellation: Orion

The Great Orion Nebula is a cloud of gas and dust visible even to the naked eye at clear winter nights as a dim spot south of the belt-stars of Orion. Binoculars reveal its fuzzy appearance, and a mid-sized amateur telescope shows delicate detail. The astrophotographer faces a major problem due to the remarkable contrast between the bright core and the faint outer filaments.

The cloud consists mostly of hydrogen gas and dust from heavier elements. These elements are called "metals" by astronomers, although they are no metals in chemical terms. They were all formed previosly in stars by nuclear fusion. These stars collapsed after running out of hydrogen and helium fuel and ejected much of their material into space.

This cloud in turn is a cradle of stars itself. Unfortunately, the nebula's dust prevents direct observation of the protostars forming within the cloud. But Hubble Space Telescope pictures taken in infrared light, which passes through this dark matter more easily, have unveiled new stars in the stage of formation. The model of accretion disks, the standard model for solar system formation, could be proved with these observations.

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