The Foxface Nebula, a reflection nebula in Orion

 
The Foxface Nebula, a reflection nebula in Orion

Image Credit & Copyright: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona (http://www.caelumobservatory.com/index.html)

The Foxface Nebula (also known as NGC 1788 and LBN 916) is a delicate reflection nebula located about 1,300 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter), a few degrees away from the bright stars in Orion’s belt. The elongated dark nebula which is apparently part of NGC 1788, is an active star forming region called Lynds 1616.

Although the Foxface is rather isolated from Orion’s bright stars, their powerful winds and light have a strong impact on the nebula, forging its ghostly shape and making it a home to a multitude of infant stars.

The Foxface’s gas and dust scatter the light coming from a small cluster of young stars. Very few of the stars belonging to the nebula are visible in this image, as most of them are obscured by the dusty cocoons surrounding them.

All the stars in this region are extremely young, with an average age of only a million years, a blink of an eye compared to the Sun’s age of 4.5 billion years. These stars fall naturally into three well separated classes: the slightly older ones on the outskirts of the nebula facing Orion, the fairly young ones, making up the small cluster enclosed in the nebula and illuminating it, and eventually the very youngest stars, still deeply embedded in their nascent dusty cocoons. Although none of the latter are visible in this image because of the obscuring dust, dozens of them have been revealed through observations in the infrared and millimetre wavelengths of light.

This fine distribution of stars, with the older ones closer to Orion and the younger ones concentrated on the opposite side, suggests that a wave of star formation, generated around the hot and massive stars in Orion, propagated throughout the Foxface and beyond.

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