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The messier 78

Where stars are being born deep in dense clouds

M78 is an often forgotten nebula in the constellation of Orion. It's a reflection nebula that's part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a large cloud of gas and dust centered on the famous Orion Nebula (M42) and De Mairan's Nebula (M43). Also included in this grouping are NGC 2064, NGC 2067 and NGC 2071 and other nebulae. Reflection nebulae like M78 are clouds of interstellar dust that shine due to reflected and scattered light from nearby stars.

M78 was discovered by Pierre Méchain in early 1780 with Charles Messier adding it to his catalogue on December 17, 1780. Although only of 8th magnitude, finding M78 is easy since it's positioned just a few degrees northeast of Orion's famous belt. The three bright stars that make up the belt are Alnitak (ζ Ori - mag. +1.72), Alnilam (ε Ori - mag. +1.69) and Mintaka (δ Ori - mag. +2.25). Positioned 2.5 degrees northeast of Alnitak is M78.

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