Nebular, Dude!

Back in January 2011 Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, made a post about the Orion Nebula.  I was somewhat confused and wrote him an e-mail regarding the size of the nebula.  Well, our wires were somewhat crossed and I was unable to realize just how big these nebula are.  The big problem is that I’ve only seen these nebula by themselves.  I haven’t seen anything that put it into proper context.  After our conversation I came across a picture of the asterism of Orion and was astounded at what I saw.  Since I’m new at this blogging thing I’m unsure if I should provide a link to the picture, put my own copy of the picture up or what.  In any case, I’m just providing a link to the original page which will do the job:

http://my.opera.com/Angolier/albums/showpic.dml?album=6008112&picture=91232262

If you look at the full sized image you’ll see nearly the entire constellation of Orion laying on its side.  The bright orange star at the lower left is the red super giant Betelgeuse.  Approximately 600 light years away, this star will go supernova sometime in the future.  It’s far enough away that it won’t have any adverse effect on us.  It will be spectacular, nonetheless.

But what really surprised me is just how much of the sky is filled with nebulae.  Wherever we look in our galaxy there is gas and dust where stars are being born and are throwing off gas in stellar death.

This universe constantly surprises me and delights me with its amazing variety and beauty.  It is truly awe-inspiring.

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