Herschel spots the fingerprints of life-enabling molecules
Orion, the hunter, has stalked the skies since before the memory of man. His bronze club, held aloft, drips with the blood of his underworld quarry while around his waist, hanging in anticipation, is his hunter’s sword. Well, that’s how the ancients saw the constellation of Orion. We’ve learned a little about the stellar warrior since then. His famous sword (a chain of three stars also known as Orion’s belt), rather than being a life-taker, is actually a life giver.
The second star in the chain is a nebula – a sort of stellar nursery where stars and planets are formed from collapsing clouds of gas and dust. The Orion nebula is one of the most studied in the heavens and recently Europe turned the gaze of its latest addition to the heavenly pantheon – the Herschel Space Observatory - to have a look.