|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.
|L R G B color production was used to create this image.|
Minimum credit line: Kent Patterson/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF
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