Image Credit: CFHT/Coelum (J.-C. Cuillandre & G. Anselmi)

We typically think of nebulae as 2 dimensional, based on how they look on film, but this incredible image of Orion — a nebula that needs no introduction — gives us a gander at its 3D structure. Just one glance at it and you'll see why this is the most famous nebula of its kind.

Tucked within just 24 light-years of spacetime, there are hundreds, perhaps a thousand, fiery cradles of starbirth, containing the overall mass of around 2,000 Suns. Each star contributes to the colorful nature of the nebula, they also carve shells into the surrounding clouds of superheated gas, with wispy tendrils of dust providing much needed contrast to the blue and pink hues.

Orion (also known as Messier 42) may very well be the most well-studied star-forming region in the galaxy, but despite that, it keeps finding new ways to surprise us. Most recently. researchers uncovered new information concerning a little-known star cluster, called NGC 1980, that appears to be independent of the primary nebula.

The brightest and most spectacular star, dubbed Iota Orionis, is on the bottom left. While from our vantage point, it appears to be one exceptionally bright star, it' actually a quadruple star system (the largest of which, is 15-solar-mass gargantuan O-type star) packed together so tightly, the stars masquerade as one. Now, astronomers believe them to be a part of this newfound cluster.

Team members from the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope explain:

As for Orion, it lurks around 1,500 light-years from Earth in a constellation of the same name. The disk-like structures surrounding Iota Orionis is an illusion of some sorts: created as a consequence of 'internal light reflection within the camera's optics.'


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