ne of our galaxy's nearest, and certainly most productive ranches is
located only 1,500 light years from our planet, south in the
sky-farmlands we call Orion
Although invisible to unaided eyes, hold a camera's shutter open for a while and it will reveal that the area is a vast fertile field
of dust and molecular gasses where a bumper crop of new stars have been
harvested and many times more are still ripening. One tract of this
farm continues to produce blue ribbon winners each year for best of
show - in fact, its yield is stellar! Situated below the three stars of
Orion's belt, it's known as the Great Nebula or M-42.
Behold the flowering of nature's bounty on an unimaginable scale -
here spanning about forty five light years in width! This scene is
seeded with open stellar clusters
hiding suns yet to be, fast moving jets
and disks surrounding new stars, called proplyds
Much of the delicate filaments that appear to be blowing like willow
branches on a breezy day result when fast moving material meets slower
moving gas and dust to form massive waves. The sense of motion evident
in this spectacular image is as real as it is mesmerizing.
This picture was produced by combining hundreds of separate images
to form a single exposure totaling over ninety hours! It was taken by Rob Gendler
(known for his green photographic thumb) from his remote controlled observatory
in New Mexico's south central mountains near the end of 2005.