The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex
Now that the constellation Orion is visible in the winter night sky, it’s a good opportunity to highlight a very close and active star forming region – the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.
The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, or Orion Complex is located in and around Orion. The most active region can be found between Orion’s belt and sword. This is a good star gazing destination because it is easy to locate and the winter night sky is great for observing because of it’s clarity. Several components of this region are visible to the naked eye and binoculars. For example, the pink colored smear you can see in Orion’s sword is actually the beautiful Orion Nebula.
The Orion Complex, which is about 1,300 light years from Earth, is called a molecular cloud because it composed of interstellar dust and gas. The density of the matter is quite high and hence, is a very active star forming region. This high level of activity has created some striking nebulae, worthy of your telescope time! Some of the interesting objects in this area include: The Orion Nebula (M42), The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434), Barnard’s Loop (Sh 2-276), and the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024).