M42: Chandra image of the Orion Nebula

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/E.Feigelson & K.Getman et. al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/M. Robberto et.al.

Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has been used to obtain a deep look into the Orion Nebula M42 in X-rays. This image was combined with Hubble Space Telescope optical images for the composite image shown above. Shown is the cluster of young stars currently forming in the Orion Nebula (Orion Nebula Cluster or Trapezium Cluster).

The bright point-like sources (blue and orange) in this image are the burgeoning stars captured in X-ray light by a long series of Chandra observations. These nearly continuous observations, lasting almost 13 days, allowed astronomers to monitor the activity of Sun-like stars between 1 and 10 million years old. The fledgling stars were seen to flare in their X-ray intensity much more than our Sun does today. This suggests our Sun had many violent and energetic outbursts when it was much younger. The wispy filaments (pink and purple) are clouds of gas and dust as seen by Hubble in optical light. This gas and dust will one day condense into disks of material from which future generations of stars will be born.

Chandra Press Release:

SEDS M42 page:


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