(via APOD: 2012 July 15 - Orion Nebula: The Hubble View)
Holy wow! Just click through for the billion pixel mosaic composit from Hubble’s ACS and ESO’s La Silla.
Just do it, OK.
The Orion Nebula (M42) is probably the brightest part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. It’s the middle “star” that looks a little pinkish in the sword stars of Orion. You can see it with the naked eye even in light-polluted areas. (I know, I live in a ‘burb of Chicago, and I can see it.)
Let’s take a stroll through the history of imaging this object (with much thanks to Wikipedia for collecting these things together):
Messier in 1771, published 1774 (from whom it earns the designation M42, being the 42nd item in his catalog of “stuff that isn’t comets”):
Henry Draper in 1880 (first photograph of a nebula, 51 minute dry-plate photograph through an 11 in/28 cm refracting telescope):
Andre Ainslie Commons in 1883 (first photograph to show that long exposure can pick up objects too faint for the human eye, 60-minute dry plate exposure through a 36 in/91 cm reflecting telescope):
You can see the familiar shape already.
Here’s the nebula in optical and infrared side-by-side:
Credit: C. R. O’Dell-Vanderbilt University, NASA, and ESA.
Main Image Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto (STScI/ESA) et al.