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Trapezium

17 Jan 2015, 06:00 UTC
Trapezium
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A group of hot young stars blazes in the constellation Orion, which is in the southeast this evening. The stars are in the Orion Nebula, a fuzzy blob of light to the lower right of Orion’s Belt. In fact, they help make the nebula shine.
The nebula is a gigantic cloud of gas and dust — a nursery that’s given birth to thousands of stars. Four of those stars are called the Trapezium, because they form the shape of a trapeze. Each of the stars is less than a million years old. That’s a lot of years by human standards, but the blink of an eye for stars.
The Trapezium’s stars are much hotter and brighter than the Sun. That’s because they’re also much more massive than the Sun. Such heavy stars burn through the nuclear fuel in their cores at a fantastic rate, which makes them shine brilliantly.
Like the nebula itself, the stars of the Trapezium are about 1500 light-years away. The brightest member of the quartet is just visible to the unaided eye, but you’ll need binoculars to see the others.
If not for the Trapezium, we wouldn’t see the Orion Nebula at all. The stars produce a lot of ultraviolet energy, which is absorbed by the nebula’s gas. This boosts the energy level of the atoms that make up the gas. When the atoms return to their normal energy level, they emit light — making the Orion Nebula shine brightly.
Look for the Nebula — and the Trapezium — inside Orion. It’s in the east-southeast at nightfall, and arcs across the south later on.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014
For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.A group of hot young stars blazes in the constellation Orion, which is in the southeast this evening. The stars are in the Orion Nebula, a fuzzy blob of light to the lower right of Orion’s Belt. In fact, they help make the nebula shine.
The nebula is a gigantic cloud of gas and dust — a nursery that’s given birth to thousands of stars. Four of those stars are called the Trapezium, because they form the shape of a trapeze. Each of the stars is less than a million years old. That’s a lot of years by human standards, but the blink of an eye for stars.
The Trapezium’s stars are much hotter and brighter than the Sun. That’s because they’re also much more massive than the Sun. Such heavy stars burn through the nuclear fuel in their cores at a fantastic rate, which makes them shine brilliantly.
Like the nebula itself, the stars of the Trapezium are about 1500 light-years away. The brightest member of the quartet is just visible to the unaided eye, but you’ll need binoculars to see the others.
If not for the Trapezium, we wouldn’t see the Orion Nebula at all. The stars produce a lot of ultraviolet energy, which is absorbed by the nebula’s gas. This boosts the energy level of the atoms that make up the gas. When the atoms return to their normal energy level, they emit light — making the Orion Nebula shine brightly.
Look for the Nebula — and the Trapezium — inside Orion. It’s in the east-southeast at nightfall, and arcs across the south later on.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2014

For more skywatching tips, astronomy news, and much more, read StarDate magazine.

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