The Orion Nebula
The Orion Nebula is part of a huge interstellar cloud called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. It lies about 1,500 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Orion. The Orion Nebula is listed as M42 and NGC 1976, and is a 24-light-year-wide section containing hundreds of newborn stars and brown dwarfs. It lies just below Orion’s three belt stars, and has a young star cluster called the Trapezium at its heart. These stars are roughly two million years old, relatively young for stars.
The Horsehead Nebula
The Horsehead Nebula (catalogued as Barnard 33) is also part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, and is a dark nebula lit from behind by radiation from several young, nearby stars. Astronomers know that stars are forming within the nebula. As they grow, they will gradually eat away at their birth cloud. Eventually the nebula will be consumed and torn apart by the active starbirth nurseries within it.
The Eagle Nebula
The Eagle Nebula, also known as M16, us more familiarly as the “Pillars of Creation”. It is the site of starbirth regions hidden inside giant pillars of gas and dust. The newborn stars are eating away at the clouds, forming the pillar shapes. Eventually this nebula will also disappear as radiation from its child stars destroys the gas and dust. This gorgeous region lies some 7,000 light-years away from us in the constellation Serpens. It stretches across more than a hundred light-years of space and contains thousands of stars in and among its pillars.
The Crab Nebula
The Crab Nebula (M1) is a supernova remnant. It was created when a star around 10 or 11 times the mass of the Sun exploded in what’s called a “core-collapse” supernova. It blasted much of its mass out to space. What was left of the star collapsed to become a neutron star that is spinning 30 times a second. It’s called the “Crab Nebula Pulsar”. The Crab Nebula lies 6,500 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Taurus, the Bull.
The Eskimo Nebula
The Eskimo Nebula is a planetary nebula formed when a star with a mass similar to the Sun’s began to exhale its outer atmosphere some 10,000 years ago. It formed a double set of clouds that look vaguely like a Eskimo face. In a few tens of thousands of years, all the gases and dust in this nebula will have scattered to space, leaving behind only a slowly cooling white dwarf star.