Setting the Dark On Fire: Beautiful View of Clouds of Cosmic Dust in the Region of Orion

Dense clouds of gas and dust in the depths of space are recognized as the birthplace of new stars.  At the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, which humans can see, the dust clouds are dark and effectively obscure the background stars. William Herschel, help observing such a cloud in Scorpius remarked, “Hier ist wahrhaftig ein loch im Himmel!”

To truly come to grips with the processes involved in star formation, a method is required that will enable astronomers to see into and beyond these clouds.  The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes, is the largest single-dish submillimetre-wavelength telescope operating in the southern hemisphere, and is exactly what the doctor or at least the astronomers ordered, for studying the birthplace of stars..

The subject of this investigation is the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex situated 1500 light-years away from Earth, which makes it the closest region of massive star formation to Earth.  The new image in the article can be compared to an older image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope at  ( The region in this image is located about two degrees south of Messier 42, the well-known Orion Nebula.

To view the new image and read the rest of the article click here to go to the specific