A massive star in the Orion Nebula is obliterating some planet nurseries while sparing others. Measurements of the dust swirling around Orion’s young stars reveal a zone of destruction near the massive star, one of the brightest in the nebula. Yet despite the carnage, many more planet-building disks survive in the harsh environment near the bright star than expected, a finding that could help researchers determine where solar systems can thrive in our galaxy.
The Orion Nebula, about 1,300 light-years away, is one of the closest star-forming neighborhoods. The nebula’s proximity makes it an attractive laboratory for understanding how stars and planets are born. The nebula envelops the Trapezium Cluster, a bundle of blue behemoths known as O stars, some of which shine roughly 250,000 times as bright as the sun.