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McNeil’s Nebula disappears

Mike Harlow (Orwell Astronomical Society Ipswich) reports that McNeil’s nebula in Orion has disappeared from view on an image taken using the University of Iowa’s 500mm Gemini telescope on 2018 November 5th. This observation was followed up by Nick Hewitt (Northampton, UK) using iTelescope 24 (a 610mm CDK Planewave reflector at Sierra Remote telescope, California, USA) on 2018 November 6th at 0920 ut and this confirmed the absence.

McNeil’s nebula is a variable nebula near Messier 78 in Orion. It was discovered by Jay McNeil on 2004 January 23rd and observed fairly frequently by a small number of UK observers since. It is associated with V1647 Orionis. It is at RA 05:46:14 and Dec -00:05.8°.

Since discovery, it has varied in brightness but never vanished altogether. It has presumably been obscured by associated gas and dust from the molecular cloud. If any observers have recent images of Messier 78 or its immediate surrounds, please forward to nickdhewitt@btinternet.com. This is an area to watch over the winter.

Dr Nick Hewitt
Variable nebula coordinator
Deep Sky Section, BAA

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