Star Belts: Orion
Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka
Credit: Digitized Sky Survey, ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator
Color Composite: Davide De Martin (Skyfactory)
Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka, are the bright bluish stars from east to west (left to right) along the diagonal in this cosmic vista.
Otherwise known as the Belt of Orion, these three blue supergiant stars are hotter and much more massive than the Sun. They lie about 1,500 light-years away, born of Orion's well-studied interstellar clouds. In fact, clouds of gas and dust adrift in this region have intriguing and some surprisingly familiar shapes, including the dark Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula near Alnitak at the lower left.
The famous Orion Nebula itself lies off the bottom of this star field that covers an impressive 4.4x3.5 degrees on the sky. The color picture was composited from digitized black and white photographic plates recorded through red and blue astronomical filters, with a computer synthesized green channel. The plates were taken using the Samuel Oschin Telescope, a wide-field survey instrument at Palomar Observatory, between 1987 and 1991.
Astronomy Picture of the Day 29 December 2006
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
Blue Giants -Wolf-Rayet Stars by Plato
The Christmas Tree Cluster from Universe Today
Across the electromagnetic spectrum podacast by Universe Today
The Dark Side of Nature release from ESO European Space Observatories
Every culture has its own constellations and mythology. Constellations rarely look like the object their name suggests; many groupings of stars have been called different things over the years.
According to Greek mythology, the stars in this region of the sky are labeled Orion in honor of a great hunter, son of Neptune and the nymph Eurayle. This drawing from E. Burritt's atlas of 1835, shows the typical image of Orion -- club in hand, lion-skin shield, attacking the bull, Taurus.
To the Egyptians, the same stars were a tribute to the god of light, Osiris.
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