Orion A Molecular Cloud
Orion A, a star-forming nebula lying about 1500 light-years from Earth, as viewed by ESA's Herschel space observatory. Orion A is located within the 'sword of Orion' – below the three main stars that form the belt of the Orion constellation.
This image shows the glow of cosmic dust in the interstellar material that pervades the cloud, revealing an intricate pattern of filaments dotted with a few compact, bright cores: the seeds of future stars. A detailed study of the L1641 molecular clouds in the Orion A complex suggests that star formation along filaments is the preferential channel to produce typical solar-type stars, while stars that are born away from these dense, elongated structures tend to have lower masses. This dichotomy could be a result of the greater availability of raw material to protostars that are forming on a filament compared to those that take shape in less dense environments.
The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red) and spans about 1.3 x 2.4 degrees. North is up and east is to the left.