Orion Nebula has a new estimated distance

Stars are born in stellar nurseries, great clouds of gas and dust. Here’s news about the most famous stellar nursery of all, the Orion Nebula.

Like people, stars are born, they live, and they die. Each year our Milky Way galaxy is thought to give birth to about 10 new stars.

And in 2007, there was news of a new distance to the Orion Nebula, a cloud of gas and dust that has forged more than 3,000 new stars, according to the estimates of astronomers.

Previously, the distance to the Orion Nebula was estimated at about 1,500 or 1,600 light-years. But the Orion Nebula is actually closer than that, according to Rob Jeffries at Keele University in England. He studied 34 stars spawned by the nebula. By comparing how fast the stars spin with their rotation periods, he deduced the stars’ size. He then could calculate how much light the stars emit into space.

And then, he compared that with how much light we see from them and deduced a closer distance for the Orion Nebula of only 1,300 light-years. The new distance increases the estimated age of the Orion Nebula’s stars to 1.5 million years – still infants in contrast to our middle-aged sun.

Our thanks today to Research Corporation, a foundation for the advancement of science.

Our thanks to:
Rob Jeffries
Keele University

March 16, 2007

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