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Hubble telescope depicts Orion's edge.

Hubble telescope depicts Orion's edge

This image of the edge of the Orion nebula, taken in visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope's wide-field/planetary camera and released on Nov. 6, reveals new details about Orion's boundary with a cooler, denser gas cloud adjacent to it. Inside the nebula, ultraviolet radiation from hot, young stars heats oxygen and hydrogen, causing the atoms to emit visible light. The blue and green in the color-enhanced image depict light from oxygen and hydrogen atoms, respectively. Orion's intense stellar radiation also drives off gas from the neighboring cloud, including singly ionized sulfur, which emits the true-color red light dominating the picture.

This curtain of gaseous sulfur, representing the no-man's-land between the nebula and its neighbor, concentrates in clumps and filaments, some measuring only 0.1 arc-second in diameter -- a scale beyond the resolving power of ground-based telescopes, says astronomer J. Jeff Hester of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, a member of the Hubble camera research team.

Despite Hubble's hobbled optics system (SN: 7/7/90, p.4), which can focus only a small percentage of light to within a circle of 0.1 arc-second, the camera successfully captured the structural detail because of the sulfur's extremely bright emission, Hester notes. He adds that computer processing helped to reduce the effects of the telescope's defective mirror, yielding the closest look yet at the interactions between Orion's stars and their surroundings, as well as the temperatures and other physical conditions within the nebula itself.
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Title Annotation:nebula
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 17, 1990
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