Messier 78

NGC 2068

Image exposure:
45 min
Image field of view:
38.8 x 25.7 arcmin
Image date:

This large cloud of inter-stellar dust is M78, a fan-shaped ‘reflection’ type nebula in Orion, located almost on the celestial equator. It is about 3° from Alnitak, one of Orion’s three well known “belt stars”.

M78 is about 1,600 light years away and at magnitude +8.3 should be detectable in binoculars.

Unlike most nebulae, which are excited by high energy ultraviolet to fluoresce at a single wavelength, M78 shines simply by starlight reflecting across all wavelengths. Spectroscopy has shown that it is light from the two brightest stars embedded in the nebula which is being reflected.

Infrared astronomy has revealed that inside the nebula, a cluster of 192 new born stars has formed, unseen in visible light.

Lower left is the much smaller NGC 2071, another reflection nebula, which is much closer, at 554 light years away from us.

In unrelated news, NASA has announced that the number of confirmed exo-planets has now exceeded 5000. That’s a lot of planets, considering that the technology to discover them has only existed for the last thirty years. By the turn of the century, we’d still only discovered thirty-seven of them. Now it’s 5005 and counting!

This one minute video is somewhat entrancing. It show the various planetary systems that we know about (but not to scale):

Telescope:Meade LX-90 200mm Schmidt-Cassegrain
(deforked); 2000 mm f/l @ f/10.
Optics:Astronomik light pollution filter.
Mount & Guiding:SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro mount.
Imaging camera:ZWO ASI 071 MC cooled.

The Blind Astronomer

Cosmic Focus Observatory

34° South

Above us only sky….

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Images © Roger Powell

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ABOVE US ONLY SKY : amateur astronomy in australia


  1. Like many people, my first stop in Orion is M42. This nebula ought to be visible for me. But, I need to give it a try soon. Orion is slipping away from view each evening.

    That video was interesting. It reminded me of Brownian Motion. hmmm…are we actually within a tiny microscopic drop of some cosmic fluid?


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