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The Orion Nebula is a vast stellar nursery located some 1,600 light years from our solar system.  The nebula is a region of intense star formation that is in the process of forming a star cluster.   When observed in visible light, most of these young stars are hidden from view by the nebula itself. In this near-infrared image, centered on the nebula's Trapezium Cluster, many of these stars shine forth.

The most intense area of star formation ( shown here) is completely hidden in visible light images. High-mass stars are forming in this area which is known as the BN/KL region. The image clearly shows the spectacular "explosive" outflow of gas emanating from this region.

This cloud of gas and dust is visible to the unaided eye as a fuzzy patch that marks the middle star of the sword in the constellation of Orion.  In 1769 the French comet hunter, Charles Messier, made it the forty second object, M 42, of his now famous catalog.

The image was obtained using the 200-inch Hale Telescope's Wide field Infrared Camera at Palomar Observatory by David Thompson of the California Institute of Technology.  This color image is composed of three near-infrared images.  The red colors come from the light of molecular hydrogen at 2.12 microns, green from 2.270 microns and blue from 2.166 microns.  i

The research was based on observations obtained at the Hale Telescope, Palomar Observatory, as part of a collaborative agreement between the California Institute of Technology, its divisions Caltech Optical Observatories and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (operated for NASA), and Cornell University.

See also:
Orion Nebula from Palomar Observatory's 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope. Image taken with the QUEST camera as a composition driftscan image taken 2003 Dec 3 of M42, colors B, R, and I. The image has been dark subtracted, flattened, and altered to hide gaps and saturated star trails.

Tom Jarrett's image of the Trapezium in Orion taken with the 200-inch Prime Focus IR Camera @ 1.28-2.12 microns

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