The Orion Nebula (also known as M42, or NGC 1976) is a diffuse nebula situated south of Orion’s Belt. It is one of the brightest nebulae, and is visible to the naked eye in the night sky – even on a good evening in Bexleyheath.
M42 is located at a distance of 1,270±76 light years and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. The M42 nebula is estimated to be 24 light years across.
The Orion Nebula is one of the most scrutinized and photographed objects in the night sky, and is among the most intensely studied celestial features. The nebula has revealed much about the process of how stars and planetary systems are formed from collapsing clouds of gas and dust. Astronomers have directly observed protoplanetary disks, brown dwarfs, intense and turbulent motions of the gas, and the photo-ionizing effects of massive nearby stars in the nebula.