Hidden Jewel Revealed
The "jewel" in Orion's sword, the star-forming cloud known as M42 shines with new light in a picture released yesterday by the European Southern Observatory's 2.2-meter telescope in La Silla, Chile. Also called the Orion Nebula, the bright cloud is just 1,350 light-years away and is one of the best studied celestial objects.
The raw data used to make this image was unearthed from ESO's archives during the agency's Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography contest. Amateur astronomer Igor Chekalin of Russia found the original data and processed it to bring out structural details in the famed nebula. His prize-winning picture prompted ESO to ask its professional image processors to take a crack at the data, producing the shot above.
Space Pictures This Week: Orion's Jewel, Horned Dunes, More
Amateurs dig up cosmic gems, a Mercury-bound craft feels the heat, a whirlpool brims with dust, and more in the week's best space pictures.