The Orion nebula is earth’s closest star nursery that also high-mass star-forming: Nearly 1400 light years away from earth, these are formed in the huge cloud of Gas and dust. In a clear winter night you can see the Orion nebula as a faint spot of light with the naked eye. Its bizarre shape and its relatively large brightness make it one of the most photographed celestial objects at all. Astronomers are intrigued but less of its beauty. For you, he is an ideal object of study, to examine the processes involved in the formation of new stars in Detail.

A young star with big impact

With the help of the flying Observatory “Sofia” found by a Team led by Cornelia Pabst of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and now, that one of the young stars in the centre of the cloud is decisive for the movement of the surrounding gas, and thus also for the external appearance of the nebula is responsible – and at the same time, the formation of new stars binds

The star, Theta Orionis C, is a blue giant star. It contains approximately 40 Times more matter than the sun and is light strong and hot. Only a few million years ago, and thus prior to the astronomically short period of time, he has formed from the Gas of the Orion nebula. His high-energy ultra-violet light provides the lights of the fog cloud, without the star, the Gas would most likely be invisible.

reports How the astronomers to Pabst in the journal “Nature”, has shaped the Theta Orionis C outgoing intense Wind of charged particles in the course of time, some 13 light-years big bubble in the gaseous nebula. The Wind prevents, moreover, that can form in the immediate vicinity of the star for more stars. Previously, astronomers thought that for this kind of stellar birth as a Supernova exploding giants in control of more of the stars responsible.

With ground-based telescopes, the international Team would have to Suffer under the leadership of scientists of the universities and the Cologne cannot the Orion nebula in this Detail by lights: The density of the gas cloud looks at photographs of impressive blocks, but also a too deep look into your Inner world. Only infrared light known as thermal radiation – can the veil of mist to penetrate. Infrared light but absorbs the other from the water vapor in the earth’s atmosphere and does not reach the earth’s surface.

airborne Observatory in the belly of a Boeing

Pope and her Team used, therefore, the Aircraft Observatory “Sofia” (short for “stratospheric Observatory for infrared astronomy”). This unique Observatory is operated by Nasa in cooperation with the German center for air and space travel (DLR). At the very heart of Sofia, there is a 2,70-Meter-diameter telescope for infrared radiation, which is installed in the fuselage of a modified Boeing-747SP. At an altitude of about 13 kilometers, Sofia is above the majority of the water vapor in the lower atmosphere. Around 160 flights the flying star completed per year.

The Sofia-created infrared image of the Orion nebula shows the structures that would be for ground-based telescopes in the visible light invisible. In addition, each of its two million pixels contains information about the light spectrum. Instead of a two-dimensional photograph, it is in reality a three-dimensional data cube, which contains, in addition to the image information, also information about the movement direction and speed of the Gas of the Orion nebula. From these data, the researchers were able to track the temporal evolution of the gas cloud. The large, bubble-like structure of the nebula, which is also normal photographs visible, and the dates according to the analysis, clearly from the particle wind of the star Theta Orionis C, is expanded, therefore, still today, with about 13 kilometers per second.