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That's Probably M42

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Posted by Daniel Johnson on November 24, 2002 17:47:56 UTC

You've probably "discovered" M42, the Great Orion Nebula, one of the nicest views in the sky for low-power telescopes. It consists of a cloud of gas and dust surrounding several stars, so that the energy from the stars lights up the area that you see. The "M" in M42 stands for Charles Messier, who compiled a list of interesting objects in the sky a couple hundred years ago. The list grew to 110 objects (though at least two are either redundant or nonexistent, giving a total of around 108 distinct objects). Most of those objects require a telescope or at least binoculars, but half a dozen or so are visible to the unaided eye, and you've probably found one of the brightest.

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