The Orion Nebula is a massive cloud of gas and particles out in space, and like most things out in space it is stunningly beautiful. Just look at it in this new image pieced together from photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. There is some heavy image editing going on here to highlight different features and types of gas, but that doesn't make this astrophotograph any less gorgeous.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced that the Herschel Space Observatory has found the first significant evidence of molecular oxygen in the Orion Nebula. The amount of oxygen found is ten times larger than was expected based on previous observations of other molecular clouds, however is still well below theoretical expectations. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the Universe (after hydrogen and helium) and is a critical part of the chemistry of molecular clouds. It is also fundamental to life on Earth, which makes finding it in space the subject of intense research. The Herschel results suggest that under the right circumstances, heat from newly created stars can free oxygen frozen on grains of dust. This would increase the amount of molecular oxygen that is able to form in warm, dense gas clouds like the Orion Nebula.