Great Nebula in Orion

M42: The Great Nebula in Orion (NGC 1976)

Object type: Emission (H II region) nebula
Distance from Earth: 1,600 light years
490 parsecs
Distance across Nebula: 16 light years
4.9 parsecs

The Orion Nebula is the middle 'star' in the sword of Orion the Hunter. M42 can be seen without optical aid as a hazy star, but through even a small telescope it is a magnificent sight. M42 is the brightest nebula visible from Earth and is thus the best studied. Its distance is 1600 light years - relatively close. Many new stars are forming in the interior of the cloud and several proto-solar systems have been discovered with infrared astrophotography. Six inch and larger telescopes reveal a cluster of four stars at the heart of the nebula called the Trapezium (the stars form the corners of a regular trapezoid). These stars are among the youngest yet discovered.