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About the Object

Color Mapping

06.30.06

A Slice of Orion

This image composite shows a part of the Orion constellation surveyed by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The region that makes up the shaft part of the "hockey stick" stretches 70 light-years beyond the Orion nebula. This particular area does not contain massive young stars like those of the Orion nebula, but is filled with 800 stars about the same mass as the sun.

Since infrared light can penetrate through dust, we see not only stars within the cloud, but thousands of stars many light-years behind it, which just happen to be in the picture like unwanted bystanders. Astronomers carefully separate the young stars in the Orion cloud complex from the bystanders by looking for their telltale infrared glow.

The infrared image shows light captured by Spitzer's infrared array camera. Light with wavelengths of 8 and 5.8 microns (red and orange) comes mainly from dust that has been heated by starlight. Light of 4.5 microns (green) shows hot gas and dust; and light of 3.6 microns (blue) is from starlight.