M42 is situated in the constellation of Orion, which dominates the winter evening sky in the northern hemisphere. Three bright stars form the Belt of Orion at the centre, and below this are three fainter stars appearing like a sword suspended from the belt. The Orion Nebula is faintly visible to the naked eye under good viewing conditions, and appears as a faint grey smudge near the centre of the sword.
The Orion Nebula is the most frequently investigated deep space object, and is the darling of amateur astronomers. Over Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada, we had exceptionally clear skies at our observing site in the Laurentien Mountains, and we captured a beautiful photo of the Orion Nebula a few hours after midnight.
Aside from the stunning beauty of this deep space object, it has provided science with information on the formation and death of stars, and the complex chemistry of nebulae.