How to See the Orion Nebula With A Telescope?

The Orion Nebula, also familiar as M 42 is easy to spot and visible to unaided eyes. It is one of the brightest Nebula in the night sky with a magnitude of 4. It is located in the Orion constellation and includes stars, ionized gas, and dust. This diffuse nebula extends across a 1° region of the night sky. You can enjoy the view even from a city with moderate light pollution.

To begin, make sure to use a star chart.

Try to use reliable star charts available online. “See it With a Small Telescope” provides a constellation chart made by the International Astronomical Union and Sky & Telescope Magazine. These charts are modified to indicate certain features or objects of the night sky. Keep in mind that the stars with different magnitudes are given as different size dots in the sky. The larger the dot, the brighter the sky. Another thing to notice is the orientation of the star charts. However, you can change it if you use a star app like Stellarium or others.

How to find Orion Nebula?

  • Orion is one of the easiest constellations to find in the night sky. The Hunter formation of stars is easily identifiable even from the city. Three bright stars of Orion’s belt compose an imperfect line. The intensely red star Betelgeuse is a red supergiant that can be visible with unaided eyes.
  • On the bottom right, you will find another blue-white bright star, Rigel. In fact, it is the brightest star in the Orion constellation. It has a luminosity of 40,000 times more than our sun. The star formation area of Orion Nebula can be found just North of Rigel, in Orion’s Sword.
  • The seven primary stars Rigel, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Saiph, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka make the unique hourglass-shaped asterism of the Hunter Orion.
  • You will find the faithful dog of Orion named Canis Major nearby where the brightest star Sirius is the nose of the dog.

What is the best time to observe Orion Nebula?

M 42 is best to see during winter from November to February. The Orion is the second brightest Nebula in the night sky after the far-southern object NGC 3372, the Eta Carinae Nebula. In both hemispheres, you will find it at a declination of -5 degrees. The table below describes the best time for observation of the Orion Nebula.

MonthTransitRiseSetBest time to Observe
January22:3016:3004:00Best before midnight
February 20:30 14:30 02:00 Best Before midnight
March19:3013:3001:00Not visible
April17:3011:3023:00Not visible
May 15:30 09:3021:00Not visible
June 13:30 07:30 19:00Not visible
July 11:30 05:30 17:00 Not visible
August09:3003:3015:00Not visible
September07:3001:3013:00Not visible
October05:3023:3011:00Not visible
November 02:30 20:30 08:00 Best after midnight
December 00:30 18:30 06:00 Visible most of the night

4 Tips to observe Orion Nebula in the best way.

  • A telescope with an equatorial tracking mount is great to get a deep view of the Orion nebula.
  • RIght filters like Light pollution filters (Optolong L-Pro) enhance the contrast and reveal the natural color of the object.
  • A narrowband h-alpha filter can be used to produce a hybrid image.
  • A focal length of 400 – 600 mm will provide the best field of view for M 42.

What can you see near Orion Nebula?

  • While observing the Orion Nebula, you will find the Running Man Nebula (NGC 1977 ) in the same frame.
  • M 42 is located in the “Sword” of the Orion constellation that is composed of 3 stars in the south of Orion’s belt. 
  • M 43 is there on the midpoint of the Sword of Orion. It appears like a rift of dusty material below the Fish’s Mouth separating M 42 from another dimmer nebula to the north. In small telescopes, it looks like a faint round glow whereas large telescopes show the shape as a comma.
  • You will find the Sword’s brightest star at the bottom (south) of M 42 known as Lota. It is blue-white and accompanied by some other stars that are visible with a modest magnification.
  • Above the north of M 42, you will find the line of three stars Alnilam, Mintaka, and Alnitak located in the belt of Orion.
  • You will find a star cluster named NGC 1981 just above that.

What telescope to see Orion Nebula?

Sky-Watcher 12″ f/3.93 Quattro Imaging Newtonian, Celestron Starsense Explorer 10″ Dobsonian, and Meade 16 LX 600 ACF f/ 8 are great telescopes to see Orion Nebula. A list of telescopes to see Orion Nebula has more telescope options that can see Orion Nebula very clearly.

What size telescope to see Orion Nebula?

A 6-inch telescope is enough to see the Orion Nebula. But by using 8-inch telescopes with at least 1000mm of focal length, you will get amazing views with sharp contrast. But they will not reveal the natural color and nearby objects. You need at least a 10-inch telescope to observe the color of the Orion Nebula along with the nearby star clusters and nebula.

What magnification is required to observe the Orion Nebula?

The magnification of the telescope to observe the Orion Nebula should be at least 75x-100x. If the telescope allows more magnification, you can use that to get better views. 100x-400x magnification with a 10-14 inch aperture will allow you to sense the colors of the Orion Nebula.

What filters are the best to see the Orion Nebula?

  • Light pollution filters (Optolong L-Pro) reveal the natural color of Orion.
  • A narrowband h-alpha filter is the best for astrophotography.
  • The Astromania 2″ O-III Filter provides good performance in both dark skies and light-polluted areas.

Enjoying Orion Nebula? Here are other things to see with your telescope.

Orion is one of the 3000 nebulae that are observable with a telescope. Viewing Nebula Through A Telescope can guide you to choose and view other nebulae. The same telescope you are using for viewing Orion may reveal other night sky gems. You will find the planets of our solar system, their moons, and floating asteroids with even a small telescope. Our nearby galaxy Andromeda and other star clusters also appear with a great view. You may go through the ‘List of things to see with a telescope’ to get a shortlist of several night sky objects you can observe with different telescopes.