M 42 (NGC 1976)

M42 (NGC 1976) The Orion Nebula
M42 (NGC 1976) is the Orion Nebula, universally considered one of the most spectacular bodies in the known universe.

A hint of its beauty can be glimpsed in binoculars, but a telescope reveals considerably more of its splendours. It is a relatively young two million years old; stars are continuing to evolve from this molecular cloud. It is from a similar nursery that our own Sun was born 4.5 billion years ago.

The light shining on this glowing object comes from the stars which make up the Trapezium, the four stars of theta, magnitudes 5 to 8, which are found at the centre of the nebula.

The cluster was discovered by Galileo, in 1617, only star B of the orginal four couldn't be seen and it was over fifty years before that star was added to the group. Now there are ten members which form the group.

The possibility of a black hole inhabiting the region of the Trapezium was raised in 2012.

One binocular field southeast brings you to kappa Orionis, Saiph, an abbreviation of a phrase that meant ‘the sword of the giant’. Those not familiar with the original Arabian name mistakenly applied the name to kappa, and it stuck. It forms the right foot of Orion.

A blue giant, kappa is about fifteen times the radius of the Sun, with a luminosity about 50,000 times that of the Sun. As with so many other stars of Orion, this supergiant will eventually collapse in on itself, and explode in a supernova.

A degree and a half north of kappa is Struve 798: 7.3, 9.5; 182º, 20.7".

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