ORION NEBULA, a turbulent maelstrom of luminous gas and brilliant stars, shows stellar formation under way. Located 1,500 light-years from Earth in the Milky Way's spiral arm, the nebula formed from collapsing interstellar gas clouds, yielding many hot, young stars. Among those are at least 153 protoplanetary disks believed to be embryonic solar systems. Below are six views of disks: four disks seen from above, plus a fifth viewed edge-on in two different wavelengths. Together they reveal gas and dust, circling million-year-old stars, that should eventually form planets. The disks' diameters range from two to 17 times that of our solar system.

Image: Mark Mccaughrean Max Planck Institute For Astronomy, c. Robert O'Dell Rice University And Nasa
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