Orion Nebula


Few are the space objects that can be more beautiful than a nebula, and as for this one of the most famous is probably the Orion nebula .


What is the Orion Nebula?

Nebulae are regions of clouds composed of gas (mainly helium and hydrogen) and stellar dust, and can be found anywhere in the Universe . Depending on what happens in them, they can be classified into three types: absorption, reflection and emission . Most of them are located in this last category, one of the most prominent being the Orion nebula . Also known as NGC 1976 or Messier 42 , it is a mass of cosmic matter located to the south of the Orion belt , and has been the subject of numerous investigations by Universe scholars due to the richness and diversity of its content.


Characteristics of the Orion Nebula

Its most notable features are the following:

  • It is located in the constellation of Orion , just over 1,270 light years from Earth
  • His age is 3 billion years
  • It has a diameter of 24 light years
  • A huge number of stars are produced at its core
  • Its shape is almost spherical
  • It is composed of star clusters and clouds, reflection nebulae, and H II regions.
  • It reaches temperatures of up to 000 kelvin


According to experts, it is estimated that the  Orion nebula began to exist a little more than 3 billion years ago , originating like any other known nebula : from the condensation of hydrogen and helium particles , mainly, together with cosmic dust. , creating the ideal conditions for the explosions that give way to the creation of stars .


Some sources suggest that ancient civilizations made some comments regarding the appreciation of this nebula . However, the discovery of it is located in the year 1610 by the French astronomer Nicolas-Claude de Peiresc , although in principle it was not given much importance.

Several decades later, several scientists gave greater detail about the nebula , among them the Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens and the Frenchman Charles Messier : the latter published their discovery in his catalog of astronomical objects under the name of M42.

In the second half of the 19th century , the gaseous nature of this object was validated, and a few years later the first photograph of the nebula was published . At the beginning of the 20th century , the astronomer Hermann Vogel and collaborators detailed some processes inside the nebula . During this time, later studies would be devoted almost exclusively to specifying the content of Orion.

Is from the 90s , thanks to the records given by the telescope Space Telescope , the study starts depth of the nebula , generating 3D models of the same to facilitate the exploration of the processes which hosts numerous.

Where is the Orion Nebula?

The specific location of the nebula, located just over 1,270 light years from Earth, is south of the constellation Orion , in an area called the Orion Complex , which includes a large number of nebulae . It can be seen just above the object known as M43 .

Known objects

Messier 42 is world renowned for its variety of astronomical objects , including reflection nebulae, interstellar clouds and  star clusters , among others.

The most striking object that can be found in this nebula is the one known as the Trapezium cluster , located in its central area. Its distance in relation to the Earth is 1,344 light years , having an age of just over 300,000 years and whose radius measures 10 light years .

It is so called because the arrangement of its bluish stars forms a trapezoid whose light allows us to perceive the gaseous nature of its location. The brightest star in this set is called C or Thera Orionis , binary in character, whose main function is to generate the glow that characterizes the Orion nebula.

Observation of the Orion Nebula

Finding this nebula is extremely simple, as it is one of the brightest stellar configurations . In addition, it is considered by many to be a particularly beautiful nebula : proof of this is the enormous amount of photographic material available not only thanks to stellar telescopes but also to the appreciation of fans of celestial space observation .

Initially the night sky must be visualized between south and southeast to locate the constellation of Orion, which contains this nebula . The best time to find it in this direction is 7 or 8 at night , and the best way to know if we are in the correct constellation is to look at the three brightest stars that make up Orion’s belt .

Just below the belt is a vertical line formed by stars, a configuration known as the sword of Orion . The center of this sword is located a bright and cloudy object: it is the Orion nebula.

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