Messer 78 with Nebula Complex

Messier 78
Messier 78: Galactic Nebula in Orion; Schmidt-Netwton 250 mm f/4, Canon EOS 20Da; ISO 1600, RGB: 70.5 min; Obwalden; © 2018 Eduard von Bergen [29]
Messier 78
Messier 78: Reflection nebula M 78 (NGC 2068) with part of Barnard's Loop (Sh 2-276) in Orion; Takahashi TOA 150/1100 APO-Refractor bei f/5.6 (TOA-645 Reducer); SBIG STL-11000M; Astro-Physics 1200GTO; 35 x 5 min Baader-RGB-Filter (1x1), -25 °C; Namibia, Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm, 1360 m AMSL; © 2.-4. 9. 2016 Manuel Jung [45]
Messier 78
Messier 78: Galactic nebula in Orion; TEC APO 140 ED refractor f=980 mm; SBIG STL1000M; L 39x10 min; R 10x5 min; G 21x5 min; B 12x5 min; Observatory Mirasteilas, Falera; © 25.-27. 11. 2011 Hansjörg Wälchli [46]
Messier 78
Messier 78: Galactic nebula in Orion; 500 mm Cassegrain 5800 mm f/11.4; SBIG STL11K; 70+10+10+10 min LRGB; Bernese Highlands; © 2005 Radek Chromik [32]


This nebula was first sighted by Pierre Méchain in March 1780 and added by Charles Messier as object number 78 in his catalog of comet-like celestial objects on December 17 of the same year. He made a note of it. «A cluster of stars with a lot of nebula». The slightly weaker part NGC 2071 further north escaped him at that time. It was only discovered by Wilhelm Herschel on 1 January 1786. Admiral Smyth saw «two stars in a very thin nebula» and Lord Rosse believed he saw a spiral structure in them. At that time it was still believed that spiral nebulae (galaxies) were located within our galaxy. [4, 196]

Physical Properties

Messier 78
Messier 78: Image in visible light (left) and infrared (right). Excerpt from SDSS9 Color and allWISE. [147]

As you can see on the infrared image in Fig. 3, M 78 is the brightest part of a nebula crossed by dark clouds, the brightest areas of which have been assigned the NGC numbers 2064, 2067, 2068 and 2071. These are mainly reflection nebulae, i. e. clouds of dust that reflect the light from stars and hardly shine themselves. With M 78 it is the two B-type stars (HD 38563 A and B) which illuminate the dust. Due to gravity, the cloud has accumulated in several «clumps». New stars are forming inside. The whole cloud belongs to the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex and is around 1,350 light years away. [196]

Further deep sky objects that belong to the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex:

Revised+Historic NGC/IC Version 22/9, © 2022 Dr. Wolfgang Steinicke [277]
Name RA Dec Type bMag vMag B-V SB Dim PA z D(z) MD Dreyer Description Identification, Remarks
NGC 2064 05 46 18.4 +00 00 21 RN 1 × 1 0.500 eF, vS, * 9·10 np 4' LBN 1627, part of M 78
NGC 2067 05 46 32.0 +00 07 54 RN 8 × 3 0.500 F, pL, M 78 s DG 79, part of M 78
NGC 2068 05 46 45.0 +00 04 48 RN 8.0 8 × 6 0.500 B, L, wisp, gmbN, 3 st inv, r M 78, DG 80
NGC 2071 05 47 07.2 +00 17 39 RN 8.0 7 × 5 0.500 D * (10 & 14 m) with vF, L chev LBN 938

Finder Chart

The reflection nebula M78 is positioned exactly on the celestial equator. It lies slightly above the left belt star Alnitak (ζ Orionis) of the constellation Orion. The reflection nebula is stated to be the brightest of its kind. Indeed, it is relatively easy to find and is quite noticeable with its brightness. [192] The constellation is best observed in the months of October to February.

Finder Chart Messer 78 with Nebula Complex
Messer 78 with Nebula Complex in constellation Orion. Charts created using SkySafari 6 Pro and STScI Digitized Sky Survey. Limiting magnitudes: Constellation chart ~6.5 mag, DSS2 close-ups ~20 mag. [149, 160]

Visual Observation

350 mm aperture: The shape is slightly U-shaped and resembles a comet's head. Two bright stars lying in the nebula disturb the picture or dazzle the viewer in detail. However, one perceives a few dark, black areas. The OIII filter was of no help with this item. Without a filter, the reflection nebula M78 was easier and better to view. [192]

14" PWO-Dobson, F:4.6 / TV-Nagler 13mm, 123x, 0.67° und TV-Radian 8mm, 200x, 0.3°, Eduard von Bergen

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