Stargazing: Observing the Orion Nebula

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While you're gazing up at Orion and the brilliant stars of winter on these cold January evenings, don't forget to take the time to search for a few of the night sky's hidden treasures, such as the Orion Nebula.

A nebula is a vast cloud of gas and dust in space. Many of these clouds exist throughout our galaxy, and many can be easily seen with good binoculars. The Orion Nebula has been of particular interest to astronomers because it has been found to be a stellar birth place. Deep within the nebula, new stars are forming, and their light helps illuminate the dust cloud.

The Orion Nebula can be found nearly in the middle of the line of stars that hangs down from the left-most star in Orion's belt. These stars are called the "sword" of Orion. Under clear, dark skies the nebula is visible to the unaided eye. Patient observation with binoculars will reveal the nebula as a bright fuzzy patch of light, and a telescope will bring out many details.

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