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Finding M78


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Hello everyone. With my interest in visual observing rocketing sky high after managing a glimpse at M81 and M82, I really want to find some other faint fuzzies. I have a 76mm Orion reflector that is cheap and poor quality (though I love it none the less) and live in a pretty dark area with minimal light pollution. Do you think M78 is possible with my gear? Or are there some easier to find objects that I could have a go at with my dodgy star hopping skills? Any star maps or ways to star hop to it are much appreciated. 

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I don't actually know how bright M78 is but I have to say it doesn't look much through my scopes, even the 18 inch. You may be able to glimsp it from a dark site but it will never look any more than a smudge, try M43 the Orion nebula, that will look great even in a small scope.

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I agree with @alan potts . In my 14” I can see it. But it might not yield the “wow” factor I think you might be looking for...

Give it a go. Because the thrill of the chase is often the gratifying part. But do manage your expectations as to whether you will actually see it, and what you might see if you do...

I find that hunting out Globular Clusters and Auriga’s M Thirty Something’s in my 80mm is a rewarding exercise...

 

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I can see it with my small AR90S ‘frac. Here’s my link to the report about it. This was from a suburban location too, not any dark site. Certainly no real wow factor too it, but it can be seen.

 

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What is your gear ?

M78 is visible in small scopes as a small faint patch of light with 2 stars seemingly embedded in it. It's not particularly spectacular but it's worth seeking out on a dark night.

Here is a link to a good finder chart:

https://freestarcharts.com/messier-78

I use the path indicated by the red arrows on the image below to find it with a low power eyepiece in the scope:

 

 

M42_M43_M78_Finder_Chart.jpg

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40 minutes ago, kerrylewis said:

M78 is not much to see usually. The two stars are quite easy to find but the nebulosity can be elusive (like M45). I always think of it as two headlights in the mist - but sometimes there’s no mist ?

I actually photographed it about a month back and thought is looked like one of my cats as the torch I use hit their eyes in the dark, didn't take a lot of frames but even after 20 minutes or whatever didn't have much of a wow factor.

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I managed M78 in a 70mm refractor. Now I always give it a look if I'm around Orion. I like it. The Orion nebula is amazing but it's nice to go off the beaten track a little and see something faint. It's a nice star hop too. Alnitak gets you close but still gives you a little bit to do. A very satisfying target. 

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If you enjoyed M81/M82 then you’ll probably enjoy the Leo Triplet. 3 galaxies that are close enough to been seen together at low power. Two are quite bright (M65/M66) with the third (NGC 3628) being a bit more challenging. If you’ve got dark skies then I think you should be able to see all 3. Certainly the brighter two. Have fun :) 

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My suggestions for targets in your scope

The Auriga clusters M36, 37 and 38. Reasonably easy to find, high up and all lovely but different open clusters

M35 in Gemini, another lovely open Cluster

NGC457 in Cassiopeia. A fun open cluster called the Owl Cluster or ET cluster, looks like a little stick man with two eyes :) 

The Double Cluster, of course, if you haven't seen it already, along with M45.

M44, the Beehive Cluster in Cancer is another lovely one, quite easy to find, plus nearby but fainter M67

I suspect many other galaxies will be quite a challenge to find as a beginner. They would probably be visible but quite tricky

M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is by far the easiest galaxy to find. Catch it as soon as it is properly dark as it gets lower as the night goes on at the moment. You can get it in binoculars given your dark skies. Here are two easy stars hop to it, I use route 1 :) 

Good luck! Let us know how you get on.

IMG_4320.JPG

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well I'd like to let you all know, tonight, before the hail set in, I saw m78 with my cheap 76mm telescope! Yes it is possible with a small telescope but probably only in rural locations, as with my minimal light pollution it was just visible. I travelled from Alnitak up and slightly to the left, nudging it left and right, not really expecting much. And then there it was. I wasn't really sure whether it was actually m78, but I checked through my finderscope and I'm certain it was in the right place. There were two dim patches of dust slightly separated with faint stars at their centre. As some of you said, it really isn't much to look at, but it still was intriguing and was an exciting find mainly due to its difficulty. Well at least it was quite difficult for my lack of star hopping skills. Thanks for the help and the star maps. Another faint fuzzy down!!

Edited by M Astronomy
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