The Great Orion Nebula

While looking over what I’ve written about the sights enjoyed by amateur astronomers, I noticed a glaring omission. Somehow I haven’t mentioned M42, the Great Orion Nebula, among the most observed objects in the night sky. This diffuse nebula is among the brighest, and is even visible to the naked eye. M42 is estimated to be 24 light years across and is at a distance of about 1350 light years. Besides being a favorite sight for amateur astronomers, scientists are also interested in M42 as a region of stellar formation. An interesting bit of trivia is that in 1880 the Orion nebula became the first target of deep-sky astrophotography.

Finding the Orion Nebula could hardly be easier. Simply look to the “sword” below Orion’s belt. If you have a larger telescope and dark skies, there are plenty of other nebulae and interesting features within this area of Orion. But large telescope or small, the Orion nebula is always an enjoyable target.

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