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The Orion Nebula: Still Full of Surprises

eso1103a.jpg

This ethereal-looking image of the Orion Nebula was captured using the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory, Chile. This nebula is much more than just a pretty face, offering astronomers a close-up view of a massive star-forming region to help advance our understanding of stellar birth and evolution. The data used for this image were selected by Igor Chekalin (Russia), who participated in ESO's Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. Igor's composition of the Orion Nebula was the seventh highest ranked entry in the competition, although another of Igor's images was the eventual overall winner.
The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, is one of the most easily recognisable and best-studied celestial objects. It is a huge complex of gas and dust where massive stars are forming and is the closest such region to the Earth. The glowing gas is so bright that it can be seen with the unaided eye and is a fascinating sight through a telescope. Despite its familiarity and closeness there is still much to learn about this stellar nursery. It was only in 2007, for instance, that the nebula was shown to be closer to us than previously thought: 1350 light-years, rather than about 1500 light-years.

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Planck highlights the complexity of star formation

New images from ESA's Planck space observatory reveal the forces driving star formation and give astronomers a way to understand the complex physics that shape the dust and gas in our Galaxy.
Star formation takes place hidden behind veils of dust but that doesn't mean we can't see through them. Where optical telescopes see only black space, Planck's microwave eyes reveal myriad glowing structures of dust and gas. Now, Planck has used this ability to probe two relatively nearby star-forming regions in our Galaxy.
The Orion region is a cradle of star formation, some 1500 light-years away. It is famous for the Orion Nebula, which can be seen by the naked eye as a faint smudge of pink.

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Colony of Young Stars Shines in New Spitzer Image

Astronomers have their eyes on a hot group of young stars, watching their every move like the paparazzi. A new infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the bustling star-making colony of the Orion nebula, situated in the hunter's sword of the famous constellation. Like Hollywood starlets, the cosmic orbs don't always shine their brightest, but vary over time. Spitzer is watching the stellar show, helping scientists learn more about why the stars change, and to what degree planet formation might play a role.
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The Orion Nebula reveals many of its hidden secrets in a dramatic image taken by ESO's new VISTA survey telescope. The telescope's huge field of view can show the full splendour of the whole nebula and VISTA's infrared vision also allows it to peer deeply into dusty regions that are normally hidden and expose the curious behaviour of the very active young stars buried there.
VISTA - the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy - is the latest addition to ESO's Paranal Observatory. It is the largest survey telescope in the world and is dedicated to mapping the sky at infrared wavelengths. The large (4.1-metre) mirror, wide field of view and very sensitive detectors make VISTA a unique instrument. This dramatic new image of the Orion Nebula illustrates VISTA's remarkable powers.

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When 18th century French astronomer and comet-hunter Charles Messier aimed his telescope at the middle star in the Sword of Orion, he thought he might have discovered a new comet. The object certainly had the fuzzy appearance of a comet, but to Messier's dismay, it turned out to be a false alarm. He had instead made an independent discovery of what now is known as the Great Orion Nebula.
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Astronomers have caught a the emergence of a massive star for the first time.
The observations confirm that magnetic fields play a strong role in the formation of these solar giants.

Title: A Feature Movie of SiO Emission 20-100 AU from the Massive Young Stellar Object Orion Source I
Authors: L. D. Matthews (CfA/MIT Haystack), L. J. Greenhill (CfA), C. Goddi (CfA), C. J. Chandler (NRAO), E. M. L. Humphreys (CfA), M. Kunz (NRAO/Illinois)

We present multi-epoch VLBA imaging of the 28SiO v=1 & v=2, J=1-0 maser emission toward the massive YSO Orion Source I. Both SiO transitions were observed simultaneously with an angular resolution of ~0.5 mas (~0.2 AU for d=414 pc). Here we explore the global properties and kinematics of the emission through two 19-epoch animated movies spanning 21 months (2001 March 19 to 2002 December 10). These movies provide the most detailed view to date of the dynamics and temporal evolution of molecular material within ~20-100 AU of a massive (~>8M_sun) YSO. The bulk of the SiO masers surrounding Source I lie in an X-shaped locus; emission in the South/East arms is predominantly blueshifted and in the North and West is predominantly redshifted. In addition, bridges of intermediate-velocity emission connect the red and blue sides of the emission distribution. We have measured proper motions of >1000 maser features and find a combination of radially outward migrations along the four arms and motions tangent to the bridges. We interpret the SiO masers as arising from a wide-angle bipolar wind emanating from a rotating, edge-on disk. The detection of maser features along extended, curved filaments suggests that magnetic fields may play a role in launching and/or shaping the wind. Our observations appear to support a picture in which stars with M ~>8 M_sun form via disk-mediated accretion. However, we cannot rule out that the Source I disk may have been formed or altered following a close encounter.

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Position(2000): RA=05h35m14.5098s, Dec =05 22' 30.4820"

-- Edited by Blobrana on Monday 23rd of November 2009 04:02:43 AM

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Close-Up Movie Shows Hidden Details in the Birth of Super-Suns
The constellation of Orion is a hotbed of massive star formation, most prominently in the Great Nebula that sits in Orion's sword. The glowing gas of the Nebula is powered by a group of young massive stars, but behind it is a cluster of younger stars and clumps of gas. Still gathering together under gravity's pull, these gas clumps will eventually ignite into stars.
The youthful cluster cannot be seen with traditional telescopes because of the surrounding gas and dust, but a new high-resolution time-lapse movie reveals the process of massive star formation with radio images a thousand times sharper and more detailed than any previously obtained. The movie shows that massive stars form like their smaller siblings, with disk accretion and magnetic fields playing crucial roles.
The way that massive stars form remains mysterious, in part, because massive stars are rare and tend to spend their youth enshrouded by dust and gas hiding them from view.

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