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The Orion Nebula contains one of the brightest star clusters in the night sky With a magnitude of 4 this nebula is easily visible from the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months It is surprising therefore that this region was not documented until 1610 by a French lawyer named Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc On March 4 1769 Charles Messier inducted the Orion Nebula M42 into his list of stellar objects Then in 1771 Messier released his list of objects for its first publication in Memoires de lAcademie1 The Orion Nebula is one of the closest stellar regions to the Earth Using parallax measurements it has been estimated that this nebula is only 1500 light years away In addition the Orion Nebula is a relatively young star cluster with an approximate age of less than one million years It has even been speculated that some of the younger stars within the cluster are only 300000 years old The Orion Nebula is an emission nebula because of the O-type and B-type stars contained within it These high-temperature stars emit ultraviolet UV light that ionizes the surrounding hydrogen atoms into protons H and electrons e- When the protons and electrons recombine the electrons enter a higher energy level n3 Then when the electron drops from the n3 level to the n2 level an Hphoton is emitted 2 This photon has a wavelength of 6563 and therefore corresponds to the red portion of the visible spectrum It is these H photons which give the nebula the distinctive red color which we see The extreme brightness of the O-type and B-type stars coupled with the Earths atmosphere has always made high-resolution imaging of the star-forming region difficult But recent advances in adaptive optics and the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope have allowed for incredible detail into the center of the dust cloud 3 The technological advances have also helped reveal several faint stars within the center of the
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