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Messier 78, NGC 2071 and NGC 2112 in the constellation of Orion in a a wide angle view

Short object description

Our wide field image shows Messier 78 in the centre. It is a complex of reflection nebulae embedded in the large dark cloud Barnard 33 (LDN 1624). The object lies in the constellation Orion and is about 1600 light years away from the solar system. M 78 was discovered by Pierre Mechain in March 1780. Our image shows very nicely that the large molecular cloud Barnard 33 extends into the area of NGC 2024 and IC 343.

While in emission nebulae gas clouds are stimulated to glow by ionisation of energetic stars, in reflection nebulae the gas masses only reflect the light of bright stars. Messier 78 is one of the brightest reflection nebulae in the sky and can already be observed with smaller telescopes in dark surroundings.
The two bright stars HD 38563 A and HD 38563 B produce a major part of the light that illuminates the reflection nebulae. However, the nebula is home to many more stars, including a collection of 45 low-mass, young stars, so-called T Tauri stars, which are less than 10 million years old and are hidden behind the dust clouds.

Our wide-angle image shows, next to M78 on the left, a part of Barnard's Loop, an extended, red glowing, H-II region. It lies about 1600 light-years from the solar system, about the same distance as Messier 78.

« Click here or the thumbnail to load a large annoted image and a size comparison to the full moon.

A higher resolution image of M 78, taken with a longer focal length, is shown here.
Approximately at the same altitude as M78 (on the left) lies the open star cluster NGC 2112, which is about 2800 light-years away from the H-II region of Barnard's Loop. According to Trumpler, the star cluster is assigned to class II 3 m. It was discovered by Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel on 1 January 1786.

The two bright stars on the lower right of the image are Alnitak (left) and Alnila (with NGC 1990), are two of the 3 belt stars of the constellation Orion. The nebula area to the left of Alnitak is NGC 2024. NGC 2024 is a mixture of emission, reflection and dark nebula and is also 1600 light years away. It was discovered on 1 January 1786 by Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel, the father of William Herschel.
« The picture on the left shows the core of Messier 78, taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. Credit:

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