M42 The Great Orion Nebula

 

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Emission Nebula

Magnitude 3.0

Size: 85' x 60'

Constellation: Orion

RA: 5h 35.3m

Dec: -5 23'

 The large glowing object in this photograph is the Great Nebula in Orion. Also known as M42, this nebula and its smaller companion to the north, M43, were cataloged by the 18th century comet hunter, Charles Messier. These nebulas are fluorescent clouds of hydrogen gas and dust excited by the ultraviolet-rich light of nearby blue-hot stars.

M42 is about 26 light-years across, and is located only 1625 light years from us. It is practically in our own celestial backyard.

From a moderately dark site, M42 can be seen with the naked eye as a misty patch of light in the sword of Orion. Beautiful in binoculars, this bright nebula explodes with detail in amateur-sized telescopes.

This image was Santa Barbara Instrument Group's "Image of the Month" for February 2001

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