The history of the discovery of M42
While visible as nebulous patch to the naked eye even under moderate conditions,
the Orion Nebula seems to have escaped pre-telescopic detection; only the bright
star Theta1 Orionis, which is situated within the nebula, was wellknown to
ancient and medevial astronomers. Even Galilei didn't mention it, although he
detected a number of stars in and around it during his first telescopic
observations in 1610, and in 1617, found the three brightest stars of the
A considerable number of consequent independent discoveries of this nebula
followed the invention of telescope:
All these discoveries didn't get publicly known, but were forgotten for a
considerable period of time. Consequently, the independent rediscovery by
Christiaan Huygens of 1656
was longly considered original, e.g. by
Philippe Loys de Cheseaux and
It was not before 1854 that Rudolf Wolf found and published Cysatus' discovery
Guillaume Bigourdan recovered
Peiresc's original discovery in 1916
(Bigourdan 1916), also referring to Cysatus'
finding, while Hodierna's work was rediscovered only in the 1980s
(Serio et.al. 1985).
- Guillaume Bigourdan, 1916.
La découverte de la nébuleuse d'Orion (N.G.C. 1976) par Peiresc.
Comptes Rendus, Vol. 162, pp. 489-490.
- Johann Baptist Cysatus, 1619.
Mathemata astronomica de cometa anni 1618.
- Giovanni Battista Hodierna, 1654.
De systemate orbis cometici, deque admirandis coeli characteribus
[About the systematics of the cometary orbit, and about the admirable
objects of the sky].
- Christiaan Huygens, 1659.
- G.F. Serio, L. Indorato and P. Nastasi, 1985.
G.B. Hodierna's Observations of Nebulae and his Cosmology.
Journal of the History of Astronomy, Vol. XVI, No. 45, p. 1-36
- Rudolf Wolf, 1854.
Ueber den Nebelfleck im Orion.
Astronomische Nachrichten, Vol. 38, No. 859, col. 109/110.
Last Modification: March 18, 2006