GERARD LODRIGUSS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GERARD LODRIGUSS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
M78 is a nebula complex that lies about two and a half degrees northeast of Alnitak (Zeta Orionis), the easternmost star in the belt of Orion. M78 is a complex of reflection, emission and dark nebulosity that is part of the Orion molecular cloud. The complex also includes the more famous Horsehead Nebula, Barnard's Loop, the Flame Nebula, and M42, the Great Nebula in Orion. M78 lies at a distance of about 1,600 light years. It has an apparent size of about 8 x 6 arc minutes, and an apparent visual brightness of magnitude 8.3. It was discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1780 and included as the 78th object in Charles Messier's famous catalog of deep-sky objects not to be mistaken for comets. North is to the right. McNeil's nebula is also visible just to.
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