The Orion Nebula takes center stage in this eye-popping image snapped by an amateur astronomer in South Carolina.
Astrophotographer Brian Davis shared this photo with SPACE.com last month, though he actually took the image during a 3.5-hour stargazing session from a driveway in the suburbs of Sumter, S.C., on Jan. 1, 2012. The iconic Running Man Nebula, or NGC 1977, is also visible toward the left of the image.
Davis used a QSI 583wsg camera, Stellarvue SVR105 4" APO Refractor telescope, mounted on a Celestron CGE. [See more spectacular photos of the Orion Nebula]
Located roughly 1,500 light-years from Earth, the Orion Nebula stretches 40 light-years across and can be seen with the unaided eye near the belt of the three stars in the constellation Orion. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).
The Orion Nebula is also known as Messier 42 or NGC 1976, the nebula’s striking colors seen in the region of star formation are created by oxygen and hydrogen gas emission.
To see more amazing night sky photos submitted by SPACE.com readers, visit our astrophotography archive.
Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at email@example.com.
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