Orion Nebula and Telescope

Astronomical targets

Orion nebula, see it through a telescope! The constellation of Orion is perhaps one of the most familiar constellations in the universe, and one of the most interesting astronomical target for an amateur astronomer.  It’s a region of massive star formation made up of a luminous cloud of dust and gas. At 2,000 times the mass of the sun, the Orion Nebula gives rise to hundreds of stars.

The best time to observe it is after sunset, where it climbs to the southeast. This constellation is home to one of the brightest nebulae in the Milky Way. The Orion Nebula is sometimes referred to as Messier 42 (M42). It is located on the south (lower right) of the Orion’s Belt. This nebula is visible to the naked eye, even though it’s located 1,350 light years away. However, the best way to observe it is to use proper optics.

Where is it located?

The Orion Nebula is located at the center of Orion’s Sword, an astronomical asterism, that comprises of three stars. It appears as a fuzzy star and its impressive luminosity makes it the most reflective nebula in the night sky. The nebula tends to appear gray and you can zoom in with a powerful magnification to get a glimpse of its powerhouse, the Trapezium. Made up of tight quarters of stars, it’s responsible for the impressive glow in the formation.

Watch: Hubble: 4K Orion Nebula: NASA Stunning Views

Observing the Orion Belt doesn’t have to be that difficult. Start with an imaginary line that’s drawn to the upper right. Ensure the line goes past Aldebaran, a relatively brighter star that’s often referred to as the reddish eye of Taurus. Extend it to the little cluster of stars referred to as the Pleiades, which is about a fingertip’s size.

Picture of Orion Nebula taken using Hubble. Credit: By NASA, ESA, M. Robberto

Read more about an amazing number of stars from the Hubble Orion Treasury Project Team website.

Greek mythology has often considered this cluster of stars (Pleiades) as a representation of the seven daughters belonging to Pleione and Atlas. Lovely and exotic by name, they include Merope, Taygeta, Alcyone, Electra, Sterope, Celaeno, and Maia. Sometimes referred to as the Seven Sisters or Messier 45 (M45). By the way, did you know: the Japanese have taken to make it one of their car’s logo, The Subaru.

Though you can only get a glimpse of a dozen stars in the cluster at low magnification, astronomical estimates put a number of stars at around 500. Bound by gravity, they sport collective movement. They are sometimes known as an open cluster owing to their irregular and uncrowded arrangement. Recent measurements indicate that the cluster is 440 light years away from the earth.

Perfect object to watch with amateur telescope

For small amateur telescopes, such as Celestron CPC 1100 StarBright XLT Pleiades is a magnificent target. It gives you a spectacular view of dozens of stars. This cluster is believed to have been formed no more than 100 million years ago. According to researchers, the cluster began to shine 70-100 million years ago. This means that the stars belonging to this cluster are much younger than the Sun, which is believed to be more than 4 billion years old.

These youthful stars are more energetic. For instance, Alcyone, the brightest of them all, is at least 350 times brighter than our Sun. It’s got an intensive blue-white glow, which speaks much of its massive and extremely hot properties.

Finding the most out of the night sky doesn’t end there. A detailed star atlas and a deep-sky guidebook might be of great help. And more important, you need to practice how to utilize the maps in pinpointing astronomical objects. These are all necessary skills every amateur astronomer needs. However, if you want to take a shortcut, you can easily find any known object from the night sky using computerized GoTo telescopes. Those features automatic motors and GPS system together digital star maps. You need just choose the object from the map, and start viewing. Of course, you can also visit observatory near you to get a closer look of this most scrutinized and photographed objects in the night sky.

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