The image presents M78, or NGC 2068, one of the brightest reflection nebulae visible from Earth, nestled in the constellation Orion. Discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1780 and cataloged by Charles Messier that same year, M78 remains a spectacle of the night sky.
M78 is a reflection nebula, meaning it shines primarily by reflecting the light of nearby stars. In this image, its characteristic soft blues and silvery whites dominate, arising from the scattering of starlight off the nebula’s dust particles. This light is largely provided by two young, energetic stars located within the nebula, illuminating it to a degree that makes M78 one of the most luminous of its kind in our skies.
In addition to its lighter hues, M78 also features stark contrast with its intricate dark dust lanes. These areas are indicative of dense molecular clouds—breeding grounds for new stars—implying that M78 is an active site of star formation.