Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2022 January 11

Orion’s Belt Region in Gas and Dust

Image Credit & Copyright: Matt Harbison (Space4Everybody), Marathon Remote Imaging Observatory

Explanation: You may have seen Orion’s belt before — but not like this. The three bright stars across this image are, from left to right, MintakaAlnilam, and Alnitak: the iconic belt stars of Orion. The rest of the stars in the frame have been digitally removed to highlight the surrounding clouds of glowing gas and dark dust. Some of these clouds have intriguing shapes, including the Horsehead and Flame Nebulas, both near Alnitak on the lower right. This deep image, taken last month from the Marathon Skypark and Observatory in MarathonTexasUSA, spans about 5 degrees, required about 20 hours of exposure, and was processed to reveal the gas and dust that we would really see if we were much closer. The famous Orion Nebula is off to the upper right of this colorful field. The entire region lies only about 1,500 light-years distant and so is one of the closest and best studied star formation nurseries known.

 

Tonight: APOD Editor to Present the Best Space Images of 2021

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