Messier 78 (M78) • NGC 2064 • NGC 2067 • NGC 2068 • NGC 2071
The Messier Catalog, sometimes known as the Messier Album or list of Messier objects, is one of the most useful tools in the astronomy hobby. In the middle of the 18th century, the return of Halley's comet helped to prove the Newtonian theory, and helped to spark a new interest in astronomy. During this time, a French astronomer named Charles Messier began a life-long search for comets. He would eventually discover 15 of them. On August 28, 1758, while searching for comets, Messier found a small cloudy object in the constellation Taurus. He began keeping a journal of these nebulous (cloudy) objects so that they would not be confused with comets. This journal is known today as the Messier Catalog, or Messier Album. The deep sky objects in this catalog are commonly referred to as Messier objects.
The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (abbreviated as NGC) is a catalogue of deep-sky objects compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer in 1888 as a new version of John Herschel's General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars. The NGC contains 7,840 objects, known as the NGC objects. It is one of the largest comprehensive catalogues, as it includes all types of deep space objects and is not confined to, for example, galaxies. Dreyer also published two supplements to the NGC in 1895 and 1908, known as the Index Catalogues, describing a further 5,386 astronomical objects.
Looking like a pair of eyeglasses only a rock star would wear, this nebula brings into focus a murky region of star formation. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope exposes the depths of this dusty nebula with its infrared vision, showing stellar infants that are lost behind dark clouds when viewed in visible light.
Best known as Messier 78, the two round greenish nebulae are actually cavities carved out of the surrounding dark dust clouds. The extended dust is mostly dark, even to Spitzer's view, but the edges show up in mid-wavelength infrared light as glowing red frames surrounding the bright interiors. Messier 78 is easily seen in small telescopes to the naked eye in the constellation of Orion, just to the northeast of Orion's belt, but looks strikingly different, with dominant, dark swaths of dust. Spitzer's infrared eyes penetrate this dust, revealing the glowing interior of the nebulae.
The light from young, newborn stars are starting to carve out cavities within the dust, and eventually, this will become a larger nebula like the "green ring" imaged by Spitzer
A string of baby stars that have yet to burn their way through their natal shells can be seen as red pinpoints on the outside of the nebula. Eventually these will blossom into their own glowing balls, turning this two-eyed eyeglass into a many-eyed monster of a nebula.
This is a three-color composite that shows infrared observations from two Spitzer instruments. Blue represents 3.6- and 4.5-micron light and green shows light of 5.8 and 8 microns, both captured by Spitzer's infrared array camera. Red is 24-micron light detected by Spitzer's multiband imaging photometer.