Messier 42, The Great Nebula in Orion
AAO image reference UKS 8.    « Previous || Next »

Messier 42,  Orion Nebula, M42, M43, NGC 1976)
Top left is NE. Image width is about 58 arc min
Image and text © 1982-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory
Photograph from UK Schmidt plates by David Malin.

Many other, much larger nebulae than M42 in Orion are known, but none offers us so intimate a view of a nearby stellar nursery. To the eye, the nebula appears as a misty patch around the central star of the line of three which form Orion's sword. Binoculars or a modest telescope will show that these three 'stars' are loose groups of several individuals, but in this long exposure photograph they are lost in the central brightness.

The central group of stars, the Trapezium cluster, is responsible for producing the nebula. It is the high concentration of dust and gas in this part of the sky which has resulted in the formation of the stars, so the Orion nebula is no random association of bright stars and dusty gas. At a distance of about 1500 light years, the Orion nebula is one the nearest and by far the brightest star-forming region. Like all the images on these pages, this picture was made from three black and white glass negatives. Some care has been taken to ensure that the colours seen here are realistic.

Related images
AAT 19.    The Orion nebula
AAT 19a.  The Orion nebula, wider view
AAT 19c.   Messier 43 and the Orion nebula
AAT 29.    The Trapezium stars in Orion
AAT 34.    Reflection nebula in Orion, NGC 1973-75-77
AAT 34a.  Reflection nebula in Orion, NGC 1973-75-77, wide field
UKS 23.   Faint nebulosity near Orion and Horsehead Nebulae
UKS 25.   Between M 42 and NGC 1973-75-77
Constellation of Orion (external site)

For details of object position and photographic exposure, search technical table by UKS reference number.

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, July 25