Astronomers in Chile have just released an amazing new photograph of cosmic “bullets” traveling through the Orion Nebula at super speeds.
The so-called Orion bullets are massive supercharged clusters of gas packed with iron atoms that cut through the Orion Nebula at incredibly high speeds, according to Space.com. They can be clearly seen in the new image released by the Gemini South Observatory in La Serena, Chile.
While the Orion bullets in the photo look comparatively small, they are each roughly 10 times the size of Pluto’s orbit around the sun. Pluto is about 49 times farther away from the sun than is Earth, making these cosmic bullets absolutely enormous and far larger than our entire solar system.
To obtain the photo, released on Wednesday, scientists at the Gemini South Observatory employed a brand-new adaptive optics system composed of five laser guides and three flexible mirrors that, when combined, are able to correct distortions and deliver clearer and more accurate images of space than ever.
"For years, our team has focused on developing this system, and to see this magnificent image, just hinting at its scientific potential, made our nights on the mountain -- while most folks were celebrating the New Year's holiday -- the best celebration ever!" Benoit Neichel, head of the adaptive optics program at Gemini, said in a statement.
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Scientists have speculated that the Orion bullets were forged deep within the heart of the nebula and ejected at super speeds due to some unknown violent event. In an earlier article, Space.com noted the bullets were first discovered in 1983, although higher-quality images of them were not available until 1992. This new image is the one of the clearest images ever of the space phenomenon.
The Orion Nebula is roughly 1,500 light-years away, but it is still the closest known nebula to Earth. The nebulas are often called star factories because, over time, the gases found in the nebulas condense into stars. Scientists have speculated that our sun was created in conditions very similar to the Orion Nebula more than 4 billion years ago.