M42 - NGC 1976
DSS image of M42
Overlaid DSS image of M42, 120' x 120' with north at top and west to the right

Aladin viewer for the region around M42
Orion Nebula
Bode 10, h 360, GC 1179, 3C 145, LBN 974

Type  Bright Nebula
Magnitude  4
Size  90' x 66'
Right Ascension  5h 35' 17"  (2000)
Declination  5° 23' 28" S
Constellation  Orion
Description  !!!, Theta Orionis and the great nebula M42
Classification  E+R
Observing Notes

Andrew Cooper
Feb 6, 2018    Waikoloa, HI (map)
20cm f/6 Newtonian, Cave Astrola @ 127x

Bright and beautiful!! first light for the newly restored 8" Astrola! The nebula complex fills the field, as the center is the Trapezium, four stars in a tight box, this is at the southern end of a dark void in the nebula, from the center two large sweeps of gas extend east and west over 25', the northern margin is quite abrupt while the southern margin fades gradually into the background, just to the north is a round body of gas (M43) about 10' in diameter surrounding the single 6.8 magnitude star NU Ori, the rift between M42 and M43 is quite dark, NGC1977 The Running Man Nebula is visible further north, the cluster NGC1980 visible to the south

Andrew Cooper
Feb 14, 2016    Waikoloa, HI (map)
20cm f/10 SCT, Celestron C8 @ 57x

Large, bright, beautiful even with a first quarter Moon at zenith just 30° away. trapezium sharp, quite a bit of structure visible along the northern edge

Andrew Cooper
Sep 14, 2015    Hale Pohaku, HI (map)
15cm f/5 Newtonian, Makaʻiki @ 19x

Beautiful! A 40mm eyepiece in the RFT allows the whole complex to be seen from NGC1980 to NGC1981. The main nebula is bright with sweeps of gas spreading to either side of ΘOri, with averted vision the loop is almost closed to the south
Commisioning a new 'scope, Makaʻiki, first light on M42, Bob Goff often declared his desire to visit this nebula in sprit after his death, here and now under a dark sky and beside a hand-made telescope I remember

Andrew Cooper
Nov 17, 2009    Hale Pohaku, HI (map)
46cm f/4.5 Newtonian, Deep Violet @ 95x

Absolutely sublime under a dark sky and with the big 'scope, a great deal of detail to be seen, the northern edges are well defined great sweeps of gas, the central core around the trapezium is notably mottled, six stars easily made out in the central cavity, the entire structure is vividly green in color, just a hint of salmon on the northern edge

Andrew Cooper
Oct 22, 2006    TIMPA, Avra Valley, AZ (map)
12x36 Canon Image Stabilized Binoculars

Beautiful! large! bright! extensive nebula over a degree across, several involved stars, trapezium not split, the entire region from NGC1981 to Iota Ori fills the field with beauty

Andrew Cooper
Jan 12, 2002    Las Cienegas, Sonoita, AZ (map)
46cm f/4.5 Deep Violet

Very large, bright, clearly green with a hint of red around the margins. a squarish bright region around the trapezium with the 'wings' spreading east-west from there, the eastern loop is visible for 180 degrees around to the south of the main core

Rev. T.W. Webb
May 19, 1885    Hardwick, Herefordshire, England (map)

The Great Nebula, one of the most wonderful objects in the heavens; readily visible to the naked eye, yet strangely missed, as Humbolt says, by Galileo, who paid great attention to Orion.

Telescope shows an irregular branching mass or greenish haze, in some directions moderately well defined where the dark sky penetrates it in deep openings: in others melting imperceptibly away over such an extent that Se., by moving his telescope rapidly to gain full contrast, has traced it in singular convolutions, and with a considerable break near σ through 5½° of Decl., and 4° of R.A. —from ζ to 49, and probably H. V 38 -a prodigious diffusion.

Bond II also found it encompassed by a distant nebulous loop; and in various parts detected about 20 curved wreaths, indicating somewhat of a spiral structure, Its real nature was long a profound mystery. It resisted H.'s 40-ft. refl., in which it was one of the first objects viewed, and, together with the Andromeda, suggested to him the widely discussed Nebula Hypothesis, which would see here an unformed fiery mist, the chaotic material of future suns. h. found but the aspect of 'a curdling liquid, or a surface strewed over with flocks of wool, or the breaking up of a mackerel sky.'

The E. of Rosse, with his 3-ft. refl., La., with his 2-ft. spec. in the Maltese sky, could advance no further; it was long believed that the 6-ft. mirror of the E. of Rosse had lifted the veil, and distinguished in some places its starry composition; Bond, too, arrived at the same conclusion; and Se. with smaller, but very perfect means, though he could detect the glittering 'star dust.'

Yet, though this would imply a permanent form, there were some strange discrepancies in the drawings of the best hands. h., in England, the same observer at the Cape of Good Hope, Bond, La., Liapounov with a 9-½in. achr. at Kazan. OΣ, at Poulkova, all differ in various ways; the latter even believed that the brightness of the central part was in a state of continual variation; and the subsequently published labors or Rosse, La., and Se., are far from correspondent in detail. All this is strange; and the spectrum analysis of Huggins has only added to the wonder by exhibiting it as a mass of incandescent gasses.

In the densest part, four stars, 6, 7, 7.5, 8 mg., form a trapezium known as Theta Orionis. Sm. gives their colors pale w., faint lilac, garnet, reddish. OΣ thinks that several involved stars are subject to change, and remarks that 'the existence of so many variable stars on such a small space in the central part of the most curious nebula in the heavens must of course induce us to suppose these phenomena intimately connect with the mysterious nature of that body.' (abridged)
― Celestial Objects for Common Telescopes, T. W. Webb, 1917

Johann Elert Bode
Sep 22, 1775    Berlin Observatory, Germany (map)

The location of the remarkable nebulous region at the sword of Orion is given very indefinite in most of the sky charts and astronomical scripts known to us. But the 15th figure depicts its actual location correctly. The star Theta, which is the one in the middleat the sword, and was described as double by Flamsteed, is situated in the middle of this nebula. 1. Theta appears fourfold in good telescopes, as it has 3 small stars close to it to the east; 2. Theta is close to the east near the previous one and has two small stars east and near it. These indicated seven stars are all involved ina vivid nebula or luminous glow, which appears inclined from evening to morning, in an elongated and curved tongue-shaped figure. Close to the north of this nebula, a small star appears which has something nebulous around it [M43]. About 32' north of 1 and 2 Theta are the stars 1 and 2 c Ori; and about equally south of them is the star Iota after Flamsteed.

Charles Messier
Jan 4, 1769    

Position of the beautiful nebula in the sword of Orion, around the star Theta which contains with three other smaller stars which one cannot see but with good instruments. Messier has entered into treat details in this great nebula; he has created a drawing, made with the greatest care, which one can see in the Memoirs of the Academy for 1771, plate VIII. It was Huygens who discovered it in 1656: it has been observed since by many astronomers. Reported in the English Atlas."
― Connaissance des Temps, 1781
Other Data Sources for M42
Associated objects for M42
Nearby objects for M42

Drawings, descriptions, and CCD photos are copyright Andrew Cooper unless otherwise noted, no usage without permission.

A complete list of credits and sources can be found on the about page