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This dramatic image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offers a detailed view inside the vast Orion Nebula (M42) — a nearby, turbulent, star-forming region. More than 3,000 stars appear in this image alone. Located in the "sword region" of the constellation Orion, the Hunter, the nebula is a picture book of star formation, allowing astronomers to study stars of all types and sizes in one location. The stars are sculpting a rugged dust-and-gas landscape of valleys, ridges, and plateaus that is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.
The bright central area is home to four of the heftiest stars in the nebula. This grouping is called the Trapezium because the stars appear in a trapezoidal pattern. Ultraviolet light and strong stellar winds (streams of charged particles) released by these massive stars are carving out a cavity in the nebula’s central region.
Many medium-sized stars are surrounded by dark disks of dust and gas in which planetary systems can form. The image also reveals an abundance of much smaller bodies called brown dwarfs.
The Orion Nebula represents a typical star-forming environment that is only 1,400 light-years away in our 100,000-light-year−wide Milky Way galaxy. This proximity makes it the perfect laboratory for astronomers to study how stars are born and develop over time.