M78 – Reflection Nebula


M78, in the Orion Complex, is the brightest diffuse reflection nebula - a cloud of interstellar dust that shines in the reflected light of young stars. As with other objects in the Orion Complex, M78 is about 1,600 light years away. The smaller nebula in the lower-left corner is classified as NGC2071.

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Celestron 9¼" at f/5.6 on a Celestron CGE equatorial mount
SBIG ST-8XM camera
Optec IFW filter wheel with Astrodon TruBalance LRGB filters
Optec TCF-S focuser
Optec Pyxis camera rotator
Guide scope: Celestron 100mm f/5 refractor and ST-402 camera.
Imaging and autoguiding with MaxIm DL 4.11
Luminance   6 hours (72 x 5 min.) unbinned @ -25°C
Red   6 hours (71 x 5 min.) binned 2x2 @ -25°C
Green   5.4 hours (65 x 5 min.) binned 2x2 @ -25°C
Blue   6 hours (71 x 5 min.) binned 2x2 @ -25°C
Processing Dark and flat processing in CCDSoft
Images combined with SD Mask in MaxIm DL 4.11
Levels and curves, highpass filter in Photoshop CS
Date and Location Luminance: 26 November 2005 and 1 & 24 January 2006   
Color: 6, 18, 19, 26, & 27 January 2006   
Montpelier, VA    N 37° 49' 12", W 77° 42' 06"

McNeil Nebula Update

In February 2004, amateur astronomer Jay McNeil discovered a variable nebula in M78. Even though it appeared in photogaphs as early as 1966, it had not been previously cataloged, and thus was named McNeil's Nebula. The nebula faded considerably afterward, and in 2007 was nearly invisible. But by winter 2008 it had re-brightened, and remains so in 2009. This composite image shows the nebula from 2005 through 2009.

McNeil's Nebula