(IAAC) Obj: M78 - Inst: Celestron 4.5" Reflector

Observer: Dean Petters
Your skills: Beginner (< one year)
Date/time of observation: Winter 1999, 19:50 EST
Location of site: Centerville OH USA (Lat 39.44, Elev ~800)
Site classification: Suburban
Sky darkness: 6 <1-10 Scale (10 best)>
Seeing: 7 <1-10 Seeing Scale (10 best)>
Moon presence: None - moon not in sky
Instrument: Celestron 4.5" Reflector
Magnification: 36x, 91x, 121x, 182x
Filter(s): UHC
Object(s): M78
Category: Emission nebula.
Constellation: Ori
Data: mag 8  size 8.0'x6.0'
Position: RA 05:47  DEC 0:4
On the first good night for observing this year, I decided to forego the usual
suspect (M42) and try for some objects that I had not found before.  The first
target of the night was M78.  After following a thread on the difficulty of
finding it, I decided to give it a try.
Consulting the Cambridge Star Atlas, I noticed that M78 is slightly northeast
of Mintaka and due east of TYC 114-2260-1.  I set the scope on TYC 114-2260-1
and started east (using 36x).  After a few rotations, I saw two dim stars
surrounded by what can best be described as a small cloud.  I moved to a
surrounding star to make sure my eyepiece wasn't fogged and it was clear.  I
then moved back to the two stars and pumped up the power.  No structure was
discernable at any power and the cloud seemed to evenly surround the two stars.
I then put on the UHC filter to see how it affected the view and while the
view did get darker, no increase in contrast was noticeable and I removed the
filter.  I then moved the scope to Alnitak and using a line through sigma Ori
and Alnitak, I reacquired the target.
Although I was sure I had found M78, not having looked at any pictures of it
prior to finding it, I decided to check out some online catalogs to see if what
I saw was actually M78.  The complete Messier catalog (located at
http://www.stud.ifi.uio.no/~mikkels/messier.html ) showed that what I looked at
was indeed M78.  Checking past logs, I noticed that there are 3 stars in the
field, but I saw no indication of the third star (a Mag 14 star in a 4.5" scope
would be a reach).
I feel that this was a significant sighting especially with the suburban
location, all backyard lights, the severely irritating mercury vapor light,
and the size of the scope.  
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