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The Sword of Orion

This image shows a visible light view of the famous Orion nebula and its surrounding cloud, an industrious star-making region located near the hunter constellation's sword. The image is from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, headquartered in Tucson, Ariz.

In addition to Orion, two other nebulas can be seen. The Orion nebula, or M42, is the largest and takes up the lower half of the image; the small nebula to the upper left of Orion is called M43; and the medium-sized nebula at the top is NGC 1977.

Above the Orion nebula, where the massive stars have not yet ejected much of the obscuring dust, the visible image appears dark with only a faint glow.