Release Images

Release No.: 2006-22
For Release: Sunday, August 13, 2006 - 8:00pm

NASA's Spitzer Reveals New Wonders in the Familiar Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula

This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the Orion nebula, the closest massive star-making factory to Earth. Spitzer surveyed a significant swath of the Orion constellation, beyond what is highlighted in this image. Within that region, called the Orion cloud complex, the telescope found 2,300 stars circled by disks of planet-forming dust and 200 stellar embryos too young to have developed disks.

In this color-coded image from Spitzer's Infrared Array Camera, light with wavelengths of 8 and 5.8 microns (red and orange) comes mainly from dust that has been heated by starlight. Light of 4.5 microns (green) shows hot gas and dust; and light of 3.6 microns (blue) is from starlight.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Toledo

Orion Nebula

This image composite compares infrared and visible views of the famous Orion nebula and its surrounding cloud, an industrious star-making region located near the hunter constellation's sword. The picture at left was taken with the Infrared Array Camera on board NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, and the picture at right is from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, headquartered in Tucson, Ariz.

Above the Orion nebula, where the massive stars have not yet ejected much of the obscuring dust, the visible image appears dark with only a faint glow. In contrast, the infrared view penetrates the dark lanes of dust, revealing bright swirling clouds and numerous developing stars that have shot out jets of gas (green). This is because infrared light can travel through dust, whereas visible light is stopped short by it.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Toledo/NOAO