M42 - The Orion Nebula

Credits: Keith Turnecliff, Long Itchington

Orion constellation is easy to identify for its prominent hourglass shape, with the bright supergiants Betelgeuse and Rigel at the upper left shoulder and lower right foot of the celestial Hunter. Orion’s Belt, formed by the bright stars Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka, is in the centre of the hourglass figure. The best time of year to observe M42 is during the winter months, when Orion is high in the sky in the evening.
The Orion Nebula is a place of massive star formation and one of the most studied deep sky objects in our vicinity as it allows astronomers to study the process of stars forming from clouds of dust and gas and the photo-ionizing effects of massive young stars that are responsible for the nebula’s glow. New stars are forming throughout the nebula. The temperature in the central region is up to 10,000 K and considerably lower around the edges.

Facts about M42 by Keith Turnecliff

M42, the famous Orion Nebula, is an emission-reflection nebula located in the constellation Orion, the Hunter.
With an apparent magnitude of 4.0, the Orion Nebula is one of the brightest nebulae in the sky and is visible to the naked eye. It lies at a distance of 1,344 light years from Earth and is the nearest stellar nursery to Earth. The nebula has the designation NGC 1976 in the New General Catalogue.
The Orion Nebula is very easy to find as it is located just below Orion’s Belt, a prominent asterism in the winter sky. The nebula appears as the fuzzy middle star in Orion’s Sword, which is formed by a vertical row of three stars (i.e. two stars and M42) south of Orion’s Belt. The nebula can easily be seen in binoculars and small telescopes. Covering more than a degree of apparent sky, the nebula appears over four times the size of the full Moon.

This star chart represents the view from Long Itchington for mid January at 10pm.
Credits: Image courtesy of Starry Night Pro Plus 8, researched and implemented by Keith Turnecliff.