WISE feels the heat from Orion's sword

Feb 05, 2013
The Orion nebula is featured in this sweeping image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. The constellation of Orion is prominent in the evening sky throughout the world from about December through April of each year. The nebula (also catalogued as Messier 42) is located in the sword of Orion, hanging from his famous belt of three stars. The star cluster embedded in the nebula is visible to the unaided human eye as a single star, with some fuzziness apparent to the most keen-eyed observers. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

(Phys.org)—The tangle of clouds and stars that lie in Orion's sword is showcased in a new, expansive view from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE.

Orion, the famous hunter, is visible in evening skies throughout the world from about December through April. The constellation appears tranquil and still to the naked eye, but lying in its sword, at what appears to be a slightly fuzzy star, is a turbulent cauldron of stellar birth.

WISE scanned the whole sky in infrared light, capturing this vast view of the dynamic region, called the . The telescope picked up the from dust heated by newborn stars. The colors green and red highlight this warmed dust, while the white regions are the hottest. burned through the dust, carving out cavities, the largest of which is seen at the center of the picture.

Astronomers think that our sun was probably born in a similar cloud some five billion years ago. Over time, the cloud would have dispersed and the stars would have drifted apart, leaving us more isolated in space. The crowded in the Orion nebula are less than 10 million years old—billions of years from now, they will likely spread out.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages, and operated, WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The spacecraft was put into hibernation mode in 2011, after it scanned the entire sky twice, completing its main objectives.

Explore further: New mass map of a distant galaxy cluster is the most precise yet

Related Stories

The 'flame' burns bright in new WISE image

Jul 03, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows the candle-like Flame nebula lighting up a cavern of dust. The Flame nebula is part of the Orion complex, a turbulent ...

WISE presents a cosmic wreath

Dec 23, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Just in time for the holidays, astronomers have come across a new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, that some say resembles a wreath. You might even think of ...

Image: Decorating the sky

Dec 27, 2010

This mosaic image taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features three nebulae that are part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud--the Flame nebula, the Horsehead nebula and NGC 2023.

Atacama Pathfinder Experiment: Setting the dark on fire

Jan 23, 2013

(Phys.org)—A new image from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile shows a beautiful view of clouds of cosmic dust in the region of Orion. While these dense interstellar clouds seem ...

'Pacman' nebula gets some teeth

Oct 27, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- To visible-light telescopes, this star-forming cloud appears to be chomping through the cosmos, earning it the nickname the "Pacman" nebula, like the famous Pac-Man video game that debuted ...

Making a spectacle of star formation in Orion

Jun 30, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Looking like a pair of eyeglasses only a rock star would wear, this nebula brings into focus a murky region of star formation. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope exposes the depths of this dusty ...

Recommended for you

Image: Chandra's view of the Tycho Supernova remnant

10 hours ago

More than four centuries after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe first observed the supernova that bears his name, the supernova remnant it created is now a bright source of X-rays. The supersonic expansion of ...

Satellite galaxies put astronomers in a spin

Jul 24, 2014

An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg (CNRS/Université de Strasbourg), has studied 380 galaxies and shown that their small satellite galaxies almost always ...

Video: The diversity of habitable zones and the planets

Jul 24, 2014

The field of exoplanets has rapidly expanded from the exclusivity of exoplanet detection to include exoplanet characterization. A key step towards this characterization is the determination of which planets occupy the Habitable ...

User comments : 0