This image features the Orion Nebula (M42) with the Running Man Nebula (NGC 1977, NGC 1975, and NGC 1973) sitting ½ degree northeast (above). M42 is a well-known, bright nebula in the constellation Orion that can be seen with the naked eye. It lies at a distance of 1,300 lights years, and is the closest region of massive star formation to earth. The Orion Nebula is an example of a stellar nursery where new stars are being born with approximately 700 stars in various stages of formation.
The Running Man is a reflection nebula that lies 5,000 light-years from Earth and shines blue from the light of the young, not fully developed stars that scatter light more effective at the bluer end of the electromagnetic spectrum than the red. This scattering takes place when light streaming from the stars interacts with coarse grains of interstellar dust. NGC 1977 stretches above center, separated from NGC 1973 (below right) and NGC 1975 (below left) by darker regions of obscuring dust. This image totals nine hours of exposures through HA, red, green and blue filters using a Takahashi TOA-130 telescope and SBIG STL-1100 camera.