October 1, 2022

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Hubble's close-up of the Orion Nebula looks like a surreal dream scene: ScienceAlert

Hubble’s close-up of the Orion Nebula looks like a surreal dream scene: ScienceAlert

One of the most beautiful areas of the night sky can be found in the constellation Orion.

Between the stars Alnitak, Saif and Rigel, a vast dense cloud of interstellar dust and gas floats. This is the Orion Nebula, Live from the material in which young stars are born and one of the most studied and photographed objects in the Milky Way.

Extension 24 light yearsIt is so close and large that it can be seen with the naked eye.

Due to its relative proximity (about 1,344 light-years from the Sun), this remarkable cloud is an important laboratory for understanding star formation.

You just have to zoom in on the image and look closely at the details.

Hubble’s new image of the Orion Nebula, HH 505 (ESA/Hubble and NASA, J. Bally, M.H. Ozarach)

This new version of Hubble’s image of the Orion Nebula looks like wisps of a delicately colored cloud doing the cloud softly against the dark velvet background of space… But in the middle is a rare and wonderful cosmic interaction, launched by the young star IX Ori.

This reaction, called HH 505, is what is known as the Herbig-Haro organism. Its formation requires a very special set of conditions.

First, you need a baby star. This knot forms when a dense knot in a molecular cloud, like a stellar orion nursery, collapses and rotates under its own mass. As it spins, it rolls in material from the cloud around it, allowing the young star to grow.

When this material accumulates on the young star, powerful jets of plasma can be released from the star’s poles. Some of the material orbiting the star is thought to be shifted along the star’s outer magnetic field lines to the poles. These magnetic field lines act as a particle accelerator, so that when matter reaches the poles, it is released at incredible speeds.

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Hubble mosaic of the Orion Nebula with position HH 505 in a yellow circle
The yellow circle shows the location of HH 505 within the Orion Nebula. (NASA, European Space Agency, M. Roberto / STSCI)

The Herbig-Haro object is formed when these jets, traveling at incredibly high speeds, hit hard in the surrounding gas, heating it up until it glows brightly. This creates what appear to be glowing bars of light emanating from the young star.

These structures change rapidly, so astronomers can study them to understand how young stars explode material away from the cloud around them. This cuts off the supply of gas and dust that feeds the growing stars, and limits the size of the adult star.

Could this amazing patch of sky get any more beautiful?

The new image can be downloaded in wallpaper sizes from the Hubble website.