The Orion Nebula is one of the most famous objects in the entire night sky. It can be seen as the fuzzy middle star in Orion's dagger, and even with binoculars reveals itself to be a cloud of gas and dust.
I've spent many hours myself gazing at this nebular masterpiece through a telescope. Even my relatively modest 'scope lets me see wisps of gas, brilliant stars, and gives me a glimpse of the overall structure of this vast cloud.
And Spitzer shows us this same view, but differently
: in infrared, the dust which blocks our visible view is seen to glow, revealing the structure underneath: an enormous complex of cold molecular gas, dust, and stars. It's one of the galaxy's biggest star-forming factories, and Spitzer can trace the filaments and ribbons of dust, slammed by stellar winds and the fierce light of hot, massive, newborn stars.
The Orion Nebula is one of the largest star birth factories in our galaxy, easily seen to viewers in other galaxies (assuming there are any). It's a wonderful circumstance that we have front-row seats to it - it's a mere 1350 light years away or so, making it the nearest such large-scale structure. It's a fantastic opportunity for astronomers to learn so much about how stars are formed... but it also serves to simply allow us to look upon it and soak in its beauty.Original blog postOriginal press releaseImage credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Stauffer (SSC/Caltech)