The Cosmic Hearth

Wise_wise2013-001_1024

wise_WISE2013-001 January 16th, 2013

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

The Great Nebula in Orion is featured in this sweeping image from NASAs 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 Orion 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. Because of its prominence, cultures all around the world have given special significance to Orion. The Maya of Mesoamerica envision the lower portion of Orion, his belt and feet (the stars Saiph and Rigel), as being the hearthstones of creation, similar to the triangular three-stone hearth that is at the center of all traditional Maya homes. The Orion Nebula, lying at the center of the triangle, is interpreted by the Maya as the cosmic fire of creation surrounded by smoke.

The metaphor of a cosmic fire of creation is apt. The Orion Nebula is an enormous cloud of dust and gas where vast numbers of new stars are being forged. It is one of the closest sites of star formation to Earth and therefore provides astronomers with the best view of stellar birth in action. Many other telescopes have been used to study the nebula in detail, finding wonders such as planet-forming disks around newly forming stars. WISE was an all-sky survey giving it the ability to see these sites of star formation in a larger context. This view spans more than six times the width of the full Moon, covering a region nearly 100 light-years across. In it, we see the Orion Nebula surrounded by large amounts of interstellar dust, colored green.

Astronomers now realize that the Orion Nebula is part of the larger Orion molecular cloud complex, which also includes the Flame Nebula. This complex in our Milky Way Galaxy is actively making new stars. It is filled with dust warmed by the light of the new stars within, making the dust glow in infrared light.

Color in this image represents specific infrared wavelengths. Blue represents light emitted at 3.4-micron wavelengths and cyan (blue-green) represents 4.6 microns, both of which come mainly from hot stars. Relatively cooler objects, such as the dust of the nebulae, appear green and red. Green represents 12-micron light and red represents 22-micron light.

Image Source: /image/wise/WISE2013-001

Curator: Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, Berkeley, CA, USA

Image Use Policy: Pulic Domain

Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
Orion Nebula Messier 42 M42 NGC 1976
Subject - Milky Way
Nebula > Type > Star Formation
Nebula > Appearance > Dark
Star > Evolutionary Stage > Protostar

Distance

Universescale1
1,450 light years
Wise_wise2013-001_128
 

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 5h 35m 17.3s
DEC = -5° 23’ 28.0”
Orientation
North is up
Field of View
3.0 x 3.0 degrees
Constellation
Orion

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue WISE (IRAC) Infrared (Near-IR) 3.4 µm
Arrow_left_cyan WISE (IRAC) Infrared (Near-IR) 4.6 µm
Arrow_left_green WISE (IRAC) Infrared (Mid-IR) 12.0 µm
Arrow_left_red WISE (MIPS) Infrared (Mid-IR) 22.0 µm
Spectrum_ir1
Arrow_top_blue
Arrow_top_cyan
Arrow_top_green
Arrow_top_red
Wise_wise2013-001_1280
×
ID
WISE2013-001
Subject Category
B.4.1.2.   B.4.2.3.   B.3.1.1.  
Subject Name
Orion Nebula, Messier 42, M42, NGC 1976
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA
Release Date
2013-01-16
Lightyears
1,450
Redshift
1,450
Reference Url
/image/wise/WISE2013-001
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
WISE, WISE, WISE, WISE
Instrument
IRAC, IRAC, IRAC, MIPS
Color Assignment
Blue, Cyan, Green, Red
Band
Infrared, Infrared, Infrared, Infrared
Bandpass
Near-IR, Near-IR, Mid-IR, Mid-IR
Central Wavelength
3400, 4600, 12000, 22000
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
Reference Value
83.822080, -5.391110
Reference Dimension
5401, 5400
Reference Pixel
2701, 2700.5
Scale
-5.55556000000000e-04, 5.55556000000000e-04
Rotation
0
Coordinate System Projection:
TAN
Quality
Full
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer
URL
http://wise.astro.ucla.edu
Name
Email
outreach@ssl.berkeley.edu
Telephone
Address
7 Gauss Way
City
Berkeley
State/Province
CA
Postal Code
94720
Country
USA
Rights
Pulic Domain
Publisher
Spitzer Science Center
Publisher ID
wise
Resource ID
Resource URL
/image/wise/WISE2013-001
Related Resources
Metadata Date
2018-01-11T02:56:42Z
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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Universescalefull
1,450 light years