Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Brace yourselves, winter is coming; and we all know what that means. That’s right, long dark nights and new opportunities to aim our telescopes at some of the greatest features in the North in the Orion Neighborhood (winter triangle or winter hexagon). Year after year, everyone’s favorite deep sky object seems to be the king of nebulae; the Orion Nebula or M42.
This year I want you to attempt something you may not have tried before, observing M43. This beautiful region isn’t the brightest but it’s a beautiful cavern carved out of the surrounding nebula by star N U Orionis (HD 37061) and even though it appears to be alone, this region is loaded with protostars just looking for their chance to awaken and shine their light into the universe.
To find M43 just find the Orion Nebula (M42). If you envision the Orion Nebula as a great flame, with the four star Trapezium being its source, look to the other side of the thick wall of material and M43 is sitting right there next to it. You may only be able to see the host star in many smaller instruments but have a look.
There are other locations throughout M43 that you won’t be seeing in a telescope but thanks to Hubble we can observe them online where your jaw can drop safely in the comfort of your own home. The above section of M43 shows an apparent thick region of star forming material pocketed by protostars coming to life and carving out caverns in the surrounding material. Eventually, all of the material will have been dissipated and the stars will illuminate the nearby universe.
NAME: Messier 43, M43, NGC 1982, De Mairan’s Nebula.
WHAT IS IT?: Emission nebula.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 4 light years in diameter.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: About 1,500 light years.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: About a 9.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Orion (The Hunter).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): RA 05h 35.6m / Dec −05° 16′.
Hubblesite News Center page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2006/01/image/c/
Hubble page for the second image: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1109a/