Image credit: M-42 by Rob Gendler
One of our galaxy’s nearest, and certainly most productive ranches is located only 1,500 light years from our planet, south in the sky-farmlands we call Orion the hunter.
Although invisible to unaided eyes, hold a camera’s shutter open for a while and it will reveal that the area is a vast fertile field of dust and molecular gasses where a bumper crop of new stars have been harvested and many times more are still ripening. One tract of this farm continues to produce blue ribbon winners each year for best of show – in fact, its yield is stellar! Situated below the three stars of Orion’s belt, it’s known as the Great Nebula or M-42.
Behold the flowering of nature’s bounty on an unimaginable scale – here spanning about forty five light years in width! This scene is seeded with open stellar clusters, nurseries hiding suns yet to be, fast moving jets and disks surrounding new stars, called proplyds. Much of the delicate filaments that appear to be blowing like willow branches on a breezy day result when fast moving material meets slower moving gas and dust to form massive waves. The sense of motion evident in this spectacular image is as real as it is mesmerizing.
This picture was produced by combining hundreds of separate images to form a single exposure totaling over ninety hours! It was taken by Rob Gendler (known for his green photographic thumb) from his remote controlled observatory in New Mexico’s south central mountains near the end of 2005.
Written by R. Jay GaBany