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Friday, October 12, 2012

Astronomy Picture of the Day

At the Heart of Orion 
From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day
Near the center of this sharp cosmic portrait, at the heart of the Orion Nebula, are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium.

Gathered within a region about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster.

Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from the Trapezium stars, mostly from the brightest star Theta-1 Orionis C powers the complex star forming region's entire visible glow.

About three million years old, the Orion Nebula Cluster was even more compact in its younger years and a recent dynamical study indicates that runaway stellar collisions at an earlier age may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun.

The presence of a black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars.

The Orion Nebula's distance of some 1500 light-years would make it the closest known black hole to planet Earth.

Credit: Image Data - Hubble Legacy ArchiveProcessing - Robert Gendler