Imagine an up-close view of a red supergiant star, a peek inside a glowing nebula churning out new stars, and spying a myriad of other objects in our galaxy as you have never seen them before – in invisible radio light! That is the experience you will get through the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (NRAO) newly released Orion Explorer installment of its popular Milky Way Explorer, an online tour of our interstellar neighborhood guided by the actual astronomers who study it using radio waves.
Through an entertaining and informative series of videos, NRAO’s Science Visualization Team presents multimedia-rich tours of the stars Bellatrix and Betelgeuse, stellar masers, snowlines around young stars, and much more. At each stop along the way, astronomers reveal the new science and exciting details we have learned about one of the most recognizable star patterns in the night sky, the constellation of Orion.
Unlike optical telescopes, which can only study objects illuminated by stars, radio telescopes can see the otherwise invisible cold, dark features in space. This includes the faint radio light that is naturally emitted by the molecules and chemicals that make up vast interstellar clouds where new stars are born, like the Orion Nebula.
The Milky Way Explorer, which was launched in 2013, also includes dozens more videos showcasing the diverse radio astronomy studies of our home galaxy and its environs.
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.