Astronomer Terry Hancock spent four years observing the Orion Nebula with a 5-inch telescope. He then combined the data from all of those observations into the gorgeous image you see above.

The large blue and red object you see on the right is the Orion Nebula itself, a 24 light year-wide expanse of glowing interstellar gas clouds and hot, bright newborn stars. The nebula is home to at least 2,000 young stars, and more stars are constantly blazing to life among the clouds of hot gas.

Tour the Orion Nebula in This Gorgeous Image

The smaller blue cloud on the left is a group of nebulae known as “reflection nebulae” because of the way light from newborn stars reflects from their clouds of interstellar dust.

Tour the Orion Nebula in This Gorgeous Image

Along with the Orion Nebula proper, these reflection nebulae are part of a much larger structure called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The complex is an enormous region full of nebulae, young stars, and dark clouds of dust and gas, spanning hundreds of light years. You can see a few of those dark clouds in Hancock’s image above.

Tour the Orion Nebula in This Gorgeous Image

[Astronomy Picture of the Day]

Images: Terry Hancock, Down Under Observatory

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