The Orion Nebula as You’ve Never Seen it Before: Jaw-dropping New Image from Gemini

by Nancy Atkinson on January 9, 2013

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This image, obtained during the late commissioning phase of the GeMS adaptive optics system, with the Gemini South AO Imager (GSAOI) on the night of December 28, 2012, reveals exquisite details in the outskirts of the Orion Nebula. Gemini Observatory/AURA

This image, obtained during the late commissioning phase of the GeMS adaptive optics system, with the Gemini South AO Imager (GSAOI) on the night of December 28, 2012, reveals exquisite details in the outskirts of the Orion Nebula. Gemini Observatory/AURA

This is the part of the Orion nebula. Recognize it? You may not, as this stunning new image comes from the Gemini Observatory’s recently-commissioned advanced adaptive optics (AO) system named GeMS. It shows clumps of gas ejected from deep within the Orion Nebula which are nicknamed ‘Orion Bullets.’

“The combination of a constellation of five laser guide stars with multiple deformable mirrors allows us to expand significantly on what has previously been possible using adaptive optics in astronomy,” said Benoit Neichel, who currently leads this adaptive optics program for Gemini. “For years our team has focused on developing this system, and to see this magnificent image, just hinting at its scientific potential, made our nights on the mountain – while most folks were celebrating the New Year’s holiday – the best celebration ever!”

The team took the image on December 28, 2012.

About five years ago, astronomers took an image of the Orion Bullets using a previous version of adaptive optics called Altair. Gemini’s instrument scientist for Altair, Chad Trujillo, pointed out that in one shot GeMS covers a significantly larger field-of-view than Altair and a higher quality image.

“The uniformity and performance across the image is amazing! In this new image, the pixels are 2.5 times finer and there are about 16 times more of them,” he said. Both the correction quality and the field-of-view are considerably better than the previous generation of AO systems.”

Detailed views of the Orion Bullet region. In each image pair, left is the Altair 2007 image and right is the new 2012 GeMS image. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA<br />

Detailed views of the Orion Bullet region. In each image pair, left is the Altair 2007 image and right is the new 2012 GeMS image. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA

Read more about the GeMS system at the Gemini Observatory website.

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

MichaelJRoberts FRAS January 9, 2013 at 11:21 PM

This is amazing. I often wonder, in say 20 years time when technology hits a real pinnacle…what we will be able to observe. It would be absolutely amazing if we could have a huge and realistic 3Dimensional visualisation of the Milky Way, nebula and gas, all the dust. Stars. Everything. In high resolution. One day! :D

Simon Donaldson January 10, 2013 at 1:46 AM

It’s probably going to take much longer than 20 years for technology to hit another pinnacle considering we were ‘meant’ to be in flying cars zooming through the atmosphere by the year 2000, according to people in 1970 :P wahahaha

But damn… what an amazing picture… One of the best I’ve ever seen…

Kendall Paul Oei January 10, 2013 at 5:53 PM

My text book in 3rd grade said we would be living on the moon by 2000. We wouldn’t even need adaptive optics from there…

Kendall Paul Oei January 10, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Is the name Orion Bullets a bit of a misnomer? Most pillars seem to be from stellar winds blowing dust back and away from the star, rather than from stars moving like bullets. Is that the case here too? Beautiful any way you look at it!

GregtheThird January 11, 2013 at 12:19 AM

This image rivals what Hubble can do. Splendid details. The scary part is that the JWT will be even better.

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