Orion Nebula (Image Credit: Patrick Gilliland)

The Great Nebula of Orion (otherwise known as NGC 1976, Messier 42, and M42) is equal parts large and awe-inspiring, spanning around 25 light-years across (around 150 trillion miles/225 trillion kilometers), and hosting roughly 2,000 solar masses of material (one solar mass is equal to one Sun-mass star).

Many of the most famous nebulae in our galaxy call the Orion Molecular Cloud "home," including the Eagle Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula, the Running Man Nebula & the Pillars of Creation (which technically reside within the Eagle nebula).

The Running Man nebula and another region called Barnard’s Loop are present in this remarkable image of the Orion Nebula, and the larger complex.

Naturally, the whole lot is tucked inside the constellation of Orion (found around 1,500 light-years from Earth).

Taken by Patrick Gilliland, this is 1 of 2 images by Gilliland in the running for a contest hosted by Royal Museums Greenwich. The winner of the "astronomy photographer of the year" award will ultimately be announced next month. (See a larger image here)


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