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This dreamy look inside the Orion Nebula is the latest “Hidden Treasure” released by the European South Observatory, part of its contest for amateurs to sift through the mountain of data ESO has generated with their telescopes and create new images from old data. The data used for this image were selected by Igor Chekalin from Russia, and this was the seventh highest ranked entry in the competition; another of Igor’s images was the eventual overall winner.
The image is a composite of several exposures taken through a total of five different filters with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory, Chile.
The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, is a huge complex of gas and dust where massive stars are forming and is the closest such region to the Earth. The glowing gas is so bright that it can be seen with the unaided eye and is a fascinating sight through a telescope. Despite its familiarity and closeness there is still much to learn about this stellar nursery. It was only in 2007, for instance, that the nebula was shown to be closer to us than previously thought: 1,350 light-years, rather than about 1,500 light-years.
The data was originally used to find that the faint red dwarfs in the star cluster associated with the glowing gas radiate much more light than had previously been thought. But the data had not been made into a color image, until now.
ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition was created for anyone who enjoys making beautiful images of the night sky using real astronomical data.