Lambda Orionis is a hot, massive star that is surrounded by several other hot, massive stars, all of which are creating radiation that excites a ring of dust, the “Lambda Orionis molecular ring.” The Ring has a diameter of approximately 130 light-years, and contains clusters of young stars and proto-stars embedded within its clouds. The bright blue star in the lower right corner of the image is Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star in the constellation Orion.
Today, if we could somehow visit our ancient ancestors and show them the bounty of modern science and technology, we would be viewed as magicians. With the wizardry of science, we could show them jet planes that can soar in the clouds, rockets that can explore the moon and planets, MRI scanners that can peer inside the living body, and cell phones that can put us in touch with anyone on the planet. If we showed them laptop computers that can send moving images and messages instantly across the continents, they would view this as sorcery.
The atmosphere brims with tiny aerosol particles—such as sea salt, sulfates, and dust—that come from both natural and human activities. Though they aren’t always visible to the human eye, satellite sensors can reveal global patterns. This image, created using NASA MODIS data highlights the global distribution of the particles.
Larger aerosols (shown in green) tend to have natural sources: Salt aerosols are visible over the oceans, and a dust is visible over the Saharan desert. Finer-grained urban aerosols are concentrated over the eastern United States and eastern Asia, particularly China. The fine aerosols in subtropical Africa are related to agricultural fires.