View Full Version : Call for archival images of McNeil's Nebula

Michael Richmond
February 22nd 04, 05:09 PM
Just a few weeks ago, Jay McNeil noticed an odd little
nebulosity in some images he had taken of the area
around M78. It turns out that a very young star,
still hidden within the cocoon of gas and dust out
of which it formed, has become MUCH brighter than
usual, or pushed lots of dust out of the way, or
both. In any case, this sort of outburst by a very
young star is a rare event. One can count the number
of "fuors" (after "FU Orionis", one of the first
of its class) on one's fingers and toes.

You can read a lot more about this new object on
any number of WWW pages; for example,


One very interesting aspect is that this star appears
to have had at least one prior outburst. A photograph
taken back in 1966 by Evered Kreimer shows the object
roughly as bright as it is now ... but images between
1966 and 2003 do not. Hmmmm.

Thus, my plea: if any of you happen to have images of
this area of the sky southwest of M78 -- specifically,
near RA = 05:46:13.1, Dec = -00:06:05 -- taken before
January 31, 2004, could you please check them for the
presence of the object (or the faint nebulosity just
north of it)? I am trying to make a historical record
of the object's brightness, which may eventually become
part of a paper in the technical literature (probably
AJ or PASP). If you send me a copy of your image,
together with details such as date, filter, film or
camera type, telescope, etc., and I can make a good
measurement of the object's brightness, I'll include
you as a co-author on the paper. If you do NOT see
the object, but can send me an estimate of the limit
that places on the magnitude (again, with all the
observational details), then I'll include you and your
measurement in a table of upper limits.

Measurements by amateurs can be important in the study
of variable objects. Let me point you to the example
of supernova 1994I in M51. The very earliest images
we have showing this exploding star were taken by
a pair of high school students in Pennsylvia and
amateur astronomers in Spain and Germany. You can read
a paper including their work at


or look it up in the ADS system; search for author

I look forward to hearing from you!

Michael Richmond