Available to the Naked Eye

m42

http://www.flemingastrophotography.com/m42st2kdsi.html

If you live under reasonably clear, dark skies, you’ve likely spotted the constellation Orion with its three distinctive stars making up “the belt.”  Below and nearly perpendicular to the belt is a vertical set of stars and deep space objects called Orion’s “sword.”  The jewel of the sword is the nebula M42, pictured above as a colorful swirl and just visible to the naked eye as a faint smudge.

Nebulas are where stars are born; they can be thought of as star nurseries.  I (Dr. Chen) was observing this area of the night sky when I noticed that my 15 x 70 binoculars were able to resolve the bright double star pictured above near the bottom right hand corner — Struve 747.