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In the constellation of Orion, just south of Orion's "belt," lies a diffuse cloud of dust and gas that's one of the brightest and best-studied stellar nurseries in the night sky. On a clear night you can see the Orion Nebula with the naked eye—but this 50-second animation, based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope, actually goes inside the nebula to show in vivid colors the young stars and protoplanets forming amidst the gas clouds as well as the massive Trapezium stars whose ionizing radiation is burning the clouds away. All stars form in clusters like the one near the Orion Nebula, but until recently the structure and evolution of these clusters received little scientific attention. "The Inner Life of Star Clusters" details the latest thinking on the various types of stellar groups.
Credit: Greg Bacon (STScI), model based on data by C. R. O'Dell (Vanderbilt University), and The American Museum of Natural History/Rose Center for Earth and Space