|Object Type||Reflection Nebula|
|Size||8.0' x 8.0'|
M78 is a small but bright reflection nebula situated about 2 degrees north east of zeta orionis (Alnitak just out of the image at the bottom) and the Flame Nebula. M78 has a curved and very sharp boundary on the north west, fanning out and fading to the south east. Imbedded in the nebula are 2 moderately bright stars. The general appearance in a small telescope is like a small comet with 2 central nuclii. (Or for people who are into computer games, it looks very much like the "ghosts" in PacMan!)
Just to the north (above) of M 78 is another faint reflection nebula NGC 2071. This is not unusual, as most of the constellation of Orion is covered by nebulosity that is visible whenever an imbedded star illuminates the surrounding material. Another way of recognising this is to compare the number of stars visible on each side of M78. There are many more stars on the right. Those on the left are partly blocked by interviening gas.
Early in 2004, amateur astronomer Jay McNeil was examining a CCD image of M78 he had recently taken, when he discovered a star and tiny nebula that had not been observed before. It was quickly found to be a new star emerging from its surrounding nebula. Its location is just to the south-west of M78, close to the tiny patch of nebulosity below M78. It is now known as "McNeil's Nebula". This discovery shows the value of making careful observations!
Combination of 15, 2 minute exposures unfiltered.
SBIG STL-1001E CCD. 20" f/6.8 Dall-Kirkham cassegrain telescope at prime focus.