What is Orion Nebula? How Is It Visible From Earth?

Every night, when we see stars in the sky, we wonder where these stars come from. All the stars, galaxies and planets are coming from the nebulas. In the Milky Way, almost 20,000 nebulae are present. But Orion Nebula is the nearest nebulae from Earth. Even the Hubble Space Telescope has clicked the picture. The nebulae are the basic unit of creating the universe. Even we humans are created due to these nebulas. 

Introduction to Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula is a cloud created by hydrogen and helium dust. They also contain plasma gas inside. Due to this, the nebula continuously forms new stars, planets and galaxies. It is one of the closest nebula to Earth and the distance is 1300 light years away. It is also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976 and is present in the Milky Way. 

Moreover, this nebula is bright and visible through the eyes at night. Its mass is 2,000 times greater than that of the sun. Before 2018, we had no specific information related to the Nebula, but after 2018, NASA created a 3-D visualisation. In this, the scientists studied the fact that the Orion Nebula is still creating stars, making them more eye-catching. 

When scientists started experimenting with this 3D visualisation, they found that it forms stars even today. Elements are still being born today as atoms collide and fuse together. Due to the continuous collision of stars, the solar wind is present. The blue colour in Orion is caused by the collision and formation of stars.

According to scientists, blue light indicates that the nebula has high interstellar dust. It is a collection of rocky silicate particles. The nebula also has a long carbon chain, as hydrocarbons, such as Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon particles. These are present in large amounts. When the particles collide, they produce energy. This energy scatters in the sky, and the reflection creates blue colour. 

Evolution of Orion Nebula

Initially, the Orion Nebula formed with cold, neutral hydrogen clouds with traces of other elements clumped due to gravity. Moreover, these clouds were very large. The inward pull of gravity was balanced by the outward pressure of the gas. It prevents collapse like earlier nebula explosions. 

Within 10-30 million years, dense regions exceeding the Jeans mass become unstable and later collapse. The current Orion Nebula star is continuously forming new stars. The youngest stars are estimated to be less than 300,000 years old. However, some are as young as 10,000 years. The big stars in nebula emits UV radiations. 

Ultraviolet radiation pushes away gas and dust, carving out the nebula’s cavity. It reveales the central stars. The most massive stars have short lives. They will explode as supernovae within 100,000 years. Most of the gases and dusts are ejected by supernova.

How to Photograph the Orion Nebula?

Orion Nebula can be captured with a lensed camera. It requires a DSLR camera, wide-angle lens (around 18-200mm), telephoto lens (around 100-400mm), and Tripod. Find a location that is naturally high altitude and free from pollution. Try to decide on a night when the moon lights are absent, and the sky looks dark. 

Make the focus on the bright star near the nebula or Orion belts. Practice it on different angles to find the best possible angle. Start with ISO 800-1600. Adjust based on your camera’s sensitivity and the sky’s brightness. Start with a 30-second exposure. Increase the exposure time as needed to capture more light.

Use live view, so if you miss any details, they can be recorded in the camera. Activate the bulb mode for the exposure. Combine multiple images with similar exposures to reduce noise and enhance detail. You can use software like DeepSkyStacker or Starry Landscape Stacker.

Final Words

Orion Nebula is one of the closest nebula to Earth. It is 1300 light years away. But we can see it through our naked eyes. However, NASA clicked on the first picture. It is one of the cleanest images of the time. The nebula is beautiful inside out.

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