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The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976) Facts and How to Find

The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976) Facts and How to Find Emission/Reflection Nebula in Orion

The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976) is an emission/reflection nebula object of interest in space. It lies at a distance of between 1,324.00 and 1,364.00 light years away in the constellation of Orion.

It is referred to as M(42) when it was catalogued by Charles Messier in 18th - 19th Century France. It is also referred to as NGC(1976) in the New General Catalogue. This is a list of deep space objects that was compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer in 1888 in an update to John Herschel earlier catalogue.

The Emission/Reflection Nebula's location is 05:35.4 (R.A.) and -05:27 (Dec.). As a guide, the nearest major star closest to the Emission/Reflection Nebula is Nu Orionis.

Its Visual (Apparent) Brightness is 4.00 Magnitude with an apparent dimension of 85x60 . The object can be seen with the naked eye from Earth, that is, you don't need a telescope/binoculars to see it.

The Great Orionnebula (M42,NGC1976) is a emission/reflection nebula. It was discovered in 1619 by Nicholas-Claude de Peiresc. It's location is RA(05:35.4), Dec(-05:27) and its distance is calculated 1.324-1.364 light years away. Its visual Brightness is 4.0. Its apparent dimensions measured in arcmins is 85x60.

How to find and see the The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976)

The site assumes that you are viewing from London in the Northern Hemisphere and from Sydney in the Southern Hemisphere and are looking at the sky about 9 p.m. If you are looking at another time or location, you will need to adjust for your location.

Orion with its distinctive belt of orion is one of the easiest constellations to find in the night sky.

Northern Hemisphere

It should be visible from January to middle of April at which time it will go below the horizon to return in November time. It doesn't get high in the sky and it travels from the south east to the south west. The star Altinak is directly above the nebula so when you identify the star, look downwards. Its not the nearest star in the night sky, the nearest is Nu Orionis which is inside the nebula and also Hatysa is nearby.

Southern Hemisphere

The Nebula can be seen in January near an easterly direction and is available for the first four months of the year. It will disappear and reappear in about November time if you missed it earlier.

Travel Time to The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976)

The time it will take to travel to this star is dependent on how fast you are going. U.G. has done some calculations as to how long it will take going at differing speeds. A note about the calculations, when I'm talking about years, I'm talking non-leap years only (365 days).

The New Horizons space probe is the fastest probe that we've sent into space at the time of writing. Its primary mission was to visit Pluto which at the time of launch (2006), Pluto was still a planet.

DescriptionSpeed (m.p.h.)Time (years)
Walking4221,974,104,199.00
Car1207,399,136,806.63
Airbus A3807361,206,381,001.08
Speed of Sound (Mach 1)767.2691,157,216,591.31
Concorde (Mach 2)1,534.54578,607,541.54
New Horizons Probe33,00026,905,952.02
Speed of Light670,616,629.001,324.00

Fact File


NameThe Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976)
TypeEmission/Reflection Nebula
Messier Id42
NGC Id1976
ConstellationOrion
Right Ascension05:35.4
Nearest Major StarNu Orionis
Declination-05:27
Distance (Lt.Yr)1,324 - 1,364
Apparent Dimension85x60
Visual / Apparent Magnitude4.00
Naked Eye VisibleYes - Magnitudes
Year of Discovery1619
DiscovererNicholas-Claude de Peiresc

Location of The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976) Facts and How to Find in Orion


The Great Orion Nebula (M42, NGC1976) Facts and How to Find Emission/Reflection Nebula in Orion

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