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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA's Hubble Reveals Thousands of Orion Nebula Stars

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via PRNewswire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. This turbulent star formation region is one of astronomy's most dramatic and photogenic celestial objects.

"Orion is a bustling cauldron of activity. This new large-scale Hubble image of the region reveals a treasure-house of beauty and astonishing detail for comprehensive scientific study," said Jennifer Wiseman , NASA's Hubble program scientist.

The crisp image is a tapestry of star formation. It varies from jets fired by stars still embedded in their dust and gas cocoons to disks of material encircling young stars that could be the building blocks of future solar systems.

In a mosaic containing a billion pixels, Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys uncovered thousands of stars never seen before in visible light. Some are merely one-hundredth the brightness of previously viewed Orion stars.

Among the stars Hubble spotted for the first time in visible light in Orion were young brown dwarfs and a small population of possible binary brown dwarfs (two brown dwarfs orbiting each other). Brown dwarfs are so-called "failed stars." These cool objects are too small to be ordinary stars, because they cannot sustain nuclear fusion in their cores the way the sun does. Comparing the characteristics of newborn stars and brown dwarfs in their natal environment provides unique information about how they form.

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