M78: Reflection Nebula in Orion

Click on image for larger version.

M78 is one of the brightest reflection nebulae in the sky. Most nebulae featured in this gallery have gases which glow (emission nebulae) due to the radiation of nearby stars. Generally the excited gas emits reddish wavelengths of light. M78 is different in that the gas is not glowing (perhaps it is too far from the stars), instead light is scattered in the cloud of gas and dust. Shorter wavelengths of light are most easily scattered and so the nebula takes on a distinctive blue color. M78 is part of an even larger complex of gas called the "Orion Complex" and includes the Orion Nebula (M42). This tremendous cloud of gas is in the outer arm of galaxy around 1500-1600 light years away. The very dark portions of the nebula are regions where cold gas and dust block the view of what lies beyond- giving nebulae like this a 3-d quality.


16in RC Optical Systems telescope operating at f/8
Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount
SBIG ST10XME CCD camera with color filter wheel

L R G B color production was used to create this image.

Luminance = 38 minutes binned 1x1
Red = 20 minutes binned 2x2
Green = 20 minutes binned 2x2
Blue = 20 minutes binned 2x2

Minimum credit line: Kent Patterson/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

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Updated: 12/05/2002