At the Heart of Orion

Just below and right of center in this picture of the heart of the Orion Nebula are four hot, massive stars known as the Trapezium. Clustered within a region only about 1.5 light-years in radius, they dominate the core of the dense Orion Nebula Star Cluster. Ultraviolet ionizing radiation from these stars powers the complex star forming region’s visible glow. The Orion Nebula Cluster is about 3 million years old. It was even more compact in its younger years, and a recent theoretical study suggests that runaway stellar collisions during its earlier years may have formed a black hole with more than 100 times the mass of the Sun. A black hole within the cluster could explain the observed high velocities of the Trapezium stars. The Orion Nebula is about 1500 light-years from Earth. If it has a black hole, it would be the closest known black hole to Earth.

Image Credit: NASA

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