“A new image from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) shows a complex distribution of interstellar dust and stars in the Orion nebula. Interstellar dust, composed mostly of silicon, carbon and other heavy elements that astronomers refer to generically as “metals,” plus some ice and organic molecules, is part of the raw material from which new stars and planets are forming.
The entire Orion Nebula in visible light. Credit: NASA/ESA
The two insets [below image] display mid-infrared images showing portions of the Orion nebula star-forming region, also known as Messier 42 (M42). The SOFIA images were produced by SOFIA staff scientist James De Buizer and his collaborators from data obtained in May – June 2011 during the SOFIA’s Basic Science program. The observations were made using the Faint Object Infrared Camera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument, led by principal investigator Terry Herter of Cornell University. Those observations are subjects of scientific papers to be submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.
This graphical representation from the SOFIA Science Center compares two infrared images of the heart of the Orion nebula captured by the FORCAST camera on the SOFIA airborne observatory’s telescope with a wider image of the same area from the Spitzer space telescope. (SOFIA image — James De Buizer / NASA / DLR / USRA / DSI / FORCAST; Spitzer image — NASA/JPL)
The SOFIA airborne observatory incorporates a 17-ton reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches) mounted inside an extensively modified Boeing 747SP. The SOFIA aircraft flies at altitudes as high as 45,000 feet (14 km), above more than 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere that blocks most infrared radiation from celestial sources.
Not too shabby!!
See the full article here.
The SOFIA is a joint program of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and is based and managed at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), headquartered in Columbia, Md., and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.