Right in time for the festive season, this image of the Orion nebula combines NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope infrared light with X-ray light to reveal a huge cloud of high-temperature gas resting in a spectacular nearby star-forming region, shaped somewhat like the silhouette of Santa Claus. An early present for astronomers, the cloud suggests that hot gas from many star-forming regions leaks into the interstellar medium.
The Orion nebula is the nearest dense star-forming region to Earth that contains stars much more massive than the Sun. This newly-discovered gas cloud is composed of winds blowing from these high-mass stars that are heated to millions of degrees as they slam into the surrounding gas.
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