The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex is the closest large star forming region to us here on Earth. The cloud is centred on the bright Orion Nebula that is visible as the bright, second ‘star’ on Orion’s Sword. The Complex is between 1500 and 1600 light years distant and spans several hundred light years containing several interesting locations within.
One of the most well known is Messier 78 – A reflection nebula with an open star cluster. Stars are forming deep within the nebula however they are usually obscured by the thick clouds of gas and dust that absorb all the light they emit, shielding them from the prying eyes of the universe, that is until now.
NASA’s Spitzer Infra-red space telescope can peer through some of this dust to reveal the gems within.
Star Formation within M78 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Some of the dust is still visible as the wavelength of infra-red used to create this image is unable to penetrate it. Though we can see the warm dust surrounding newborn stars glowing in greens and yellows. The bubble features are produced by the stellar winds from the developing stars blowing the surrounding material away from the young stars ...