The Orion A portion of the Orion Molecular Cloud, a vast star-forming complex of cosmic gas and dust in the constellation of Orion the Hunter, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite using information from the mission’s second data release.
The image shows the distribution of all stars in the area, and clearly outlines the silhouette of a dark cloud of gas and dust hiding background stars from view.
Already using data from Gaia’s first data release, published in 2016, astronomers have spotted the shape of a cat – or that of a fox – in this cloud, depending on whether the bright spot just right of centre is viewed as a nose or an eye. In fact, the cat’s nose (or fox’s eye) corresponds to the Orion Nebula Cluster, a young open cluster near M42.
This view is not a photograph but was compiled by mapping the total density of stars detected by Gaia in each pixel.
Acknowledgement: Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC); A. Moitinho / A. F. Silva / M. Barros / C. Barata, University of Lisbon, Portugal; H. Savietto, Fork Research, Portugal.