Orion hides busy star "nursery": astronomers

A close-up view of a spectacular jet (red) popping out of a busy region of star formation in Orion is seen in this undated handout image received in London on April 19, 2009. REUTERS/UKIRT/JAC/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - The constellation Orion hides a busy stellar nursery, crowded with young stars blasting jets of gas in all directions, astronomers reported on Sunday.

A dusty nebula that looks like a fuzzy patch around Orion’s “sword” hides a large region bursting with immature stars, they said.

“Regions like this are usually referred to as stellar nurseries, but we have shown that this one is not being well run: it is chaotic and seriously overcrowded,” Chris Davis of the Joint Astronomy Center in Hawaii said in a statement.

These young stars are spewing jets of hydrogen molecules across trillions of miles (km) of interstellar space, the astronomers said in material prepared for this week’s National Astronomy Meeting of the U.K. in Hertfordshire.

“Star formation research is fundamental to our understanding of how our own sun, and the planets that orbit it, were created. Many of the stars currently being born in Orion will evolve to be just like the sun. Some may even have Earth-like planets associated with them,” Thomas Stanke of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

The international research team used the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope in Hawaii, the international research institute for radio astronomy, or IRAM, Millimeter-wave Telescope in Spain, and the orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope above the Earth.

Reporting by Maggie Fox in Washington