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Space Pictures / The Orion Nebula (Original)

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Title: The Orion Nebula

Source: Hubble Space Telescope

Information: HST's detailed images confirm more than a century of speculation, conjecture, and theory about the genesis of a solar system. According to current theories, the dust contained within the disks eventually agglomerates to make planets. HST's images provide direct evidence that dust surrounding a newborn star has too much spin to be drawn into the collapsing star. Instead, the material spreads out into a broad, flattened disk. Before the HST discovery, remnant dust disks had been confirmed around only four stars: Beta Pictoris, Alpha Lyrae, Alpha Piscis Austrini, and Epsilon Eridani. They are a fraction of the mass of the proplyds in Orion, and might be leftover material from the planet formation process. Less direct detections of circumstellar material around stars in nearby star forming regions have been made by radio and infrared telescopes. Unlike these previous observations, HST has observed newly formed stars less than a million years old which are still contracting out of primordial gas. Planets are considered a fundamental prerequisite for the existence of life as we know it. A planet provides a storehouse of chemicals for manufacturing the complex molecules of biology; gravitationally holds an atmosphere of gasses that are used by life; and receives heat and light from the central star to power photosynthesis and other chemical reactions required by life forms.