BinoSky - best bets for stargazing with binoculars
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The Orion Nebula, M42, and open cluster NGC1981
A map of the star field. Magnitudes are given without a decimal point, e.g. 67 is to be interpreted as magnitude 6.7.

60-degree field of view

This photo represents fairly accurately what you will see through binoculars, except that the colors will not be as vivid. Photo by B. Crowell, (c) 1999.
How to Find It
The Orion Nebula surrounds the middle stars of Orion's sword.

Under light-polluted conditions, the nebulosity may unfortunately be more evident with the naked eye than through binoculars. You may see something more akin to the star field map than to the high-contrast telescopic photo. From my urban location, I see a nebulosity about 15 minutes in diameter around the middle star, and all I see in the area of M43, the northern "head" of the nebula, is the two stars it contains, which are the top of the sword.

Two multiple stars lie at the center of the nebula and illuminate it. Theta 1, on the upper right, is actually a quadruple star, known as the trapezium, whose brightest member shines at magnitude 5.4. The other three members of the trapezium are much dimmer, and not easily resolved at low magnification. Theta 2, on the lower left, is a double which can easily be split through binoculars. It consists of stars of magnitude 5.2 and 6.5, with the dimmer one lying almost directly to the left (east) at a separation of just under an arc minute.

Just above the top of Orion's sword lies the open cluster NGC1981, whose most prominent members are a north-south string of three 6th magnitude stars.

Data for M42
RA 05 35
dec -05 23
total magnitude 2.9

Data for NGC1981 (Janes, Duke, and Lynga, 1987)
RA 05 35
dec -04 26
total V magnitude 4.2
NGC number 1981
Trumpler class III 3 p n
angular diameter 28'
distance 400 pc
earliest sp. class B1

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(c) Copyright 1998 Benjamin Crowell. All right reserved.
Photos from the Digitized Sky Survey,
Sky maps created by Your Sky,