The Orion Nebula
Facts about the Orion Nebula and images of the famous star-forming region.
The Orion Nebula is one of the most famous deep-sky objects in astronomy and, at just 1,500 lightyears away, is the closest major star-forming region to Earth.
The Orion Nebula is well-known among astronomers and astrophotographers for its distinctive shape, but you don't necessarily need a telescope to observe it.
Under good conditions it is possible to see the Orion Nebula in the night sky with the naked eye.
The nebula can be seen in the Orion constellation, forming part of Orion's sword just south of the hunter's belt.
Like the constellation itself, the Orion Nebula is best seen in the winter skies.
To find the Orion Nebula, locate the Orion constellation, then find the three stars in a row that make up its belt: Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka. Look just below Orion's belt and you'll see a fuzzy patch. This is the Orion Nebula.
See if you can get a closer look through binoculars or a small refractor telescope.
For more help, read our guide on the best targets to observe in the Orion constellation or read US astronomer Scott Levine's piece on Thanksgiving astronomy.
What is the Orion Nebula?
The Orion Nebula is a gigantic cosmic cloud of dust and gas where numerous new stars are being formed.
These powerful stars are unleashing streams of ultraviolet radiation that is sculpting a cavity in the nebula, destroying the gas and dust necessary for new stars to be born.
Below is a gallery of images of the Orion Nebula captured by astrophotographers and BBC Sky at Night Magazine readers from around the world.
Pictures of the Orion Nebula
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.