Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

July 3, 1995

The Great Nebula in Orion
Picture Credit: NASA, Hubble Space Telescope

Explanation: The Great Nebula in Orion, M42, can be found on the night sky just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. This nebula is one of the closest stellar nurseries - where young stars are being formed even now. Clumps of gas (mostly hydrogen and helium) and dust in the nebula are squeezed together by their own gravity until they collapse and form stars. Some stars we can see here partially obscured by the nebula, are only about 100,000 years old - just babies compared to the 5 billion (5,000,000,000) years of our Sun.

For more information see NASA, Hubble Space Telescope Scientific Institute press release.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day is brought to you by Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell . Original material on this page is copyrighted to Robert J. Nemiroff and Jerry T. Bonnell.