As autumn changes to winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the glorious Orion Nebula rises in the early evening, a welcome addition to the amateur’s list of favourite targets. Even in small telescope, the vast stellar nursery, some 1,400 light years from Earth, dazzles the eye with curving wings of gas stretching away to either side of a concentrated star-forming region where larger instruments reveal the four brightest members of the Trapezium, an open cluster of very young stars. Very large instruments, of course, reveal truly stunning tapestries of light and colour across multiple wavelengths. This infrared view was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope using the HAWK-I cryogenically cooled infrared camera.
The European Southern Observatory’s HAWK-I infrared instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile has been used to peer deeper into the heart of Orion Nebula than ever before. The spectacular picture reveals about ten times as many brown dwarfs and isolated planetary-mass objects than were previously known.