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M42 is an emission nebula in the Northern Hemisphere constellation Orion the Hunter. It is also known as NGC 1976 and the Great Nebula in Orion.

It appears as the middle star of three making up Orion's sword. M42 is 1,500 LY* distant and 98 light years LY wide. It can easily be seen in binoculars.

*1 LY is equal to 5.88 trillion miles


Choose from 25 Presentations with handouts, slides, and video

  1. The Planets. Explore the planets and moons of the solar system with pictures taken by ground based telescopes and interplanetary probes. Learn about the 250 (and counting) planets discovered orbiting other stars since 1986.
  2. The Stars. Like people, stars come in a variety of size, color, age, and shape. They are "born", live out an existence, and "die." Get acquainted with blue and red giants; brown, red, and white dwarfs; neutron stars; pulsars; black holes; magnetars; and planetary nebulae.
  3. The Constellations. Ancient astrologers studied 12 groups of stars that the five visible planets appeared to travel through. The path they took became known as the circle of animals (zodiac). But why did they leave out the constellation Ophiuchus, a 13th group of stars the sun, moon, and planets travel ‘through’? Why is astrology medieval superstition and not a true science? Why can't it ever perform as astrologers claim it does? If you know the birth dates of people who believe they are Scorpios or Sagittarians, they may be Ophiuchans!
  4. The Galaxies. They are the largest, individual objects in the universe. Our local galaxy, home of the sun and the solar system, is called the Milky Way. It is one of a 100 billion other galaxies that make up the universe. Consider that an average galaxy is made up of between 10 billion and 400 billion suns!
  5. The Universe. Recent discoveries put the age of the universe at 13.7 billion years old. Modern cosmology shows it is finite in size, has an "edge", is expanding, and in 100 billion years will die. We will discuss the three ways it can end. You will learn how to describe the size of the universe in one sentence.
  6. The Search for ETs. Is ours the only planet with intelligent life forms that have produced a technological civilization? Learn about astronomical distances, space travel, relativity, even quantum physics. Come away with a better insight into the question, "Are we alone in the universe?"
  7. Flying Saucers (UFOs) Are Real. Is there a UFO cover up as alluded to in The X-Files? Have we been visited in the past? Now? Your speaker was as close as you can get to being a real Man in Black. He was one of 83, hand-picked field investigators for the Center For UFO Studies during the 1970's and 80's founded by the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek after he left the US Air Force as its scientific advisor.
  8. This Season’s Night Sky. The 3,000 or so stars you can see with the naked eye on a clear night appear to move completely around the sky during the course of a year. In 365 days, the same stars we see tonight will be up there again. Discover what planets, comets, star clusters, and meteor showers, can be seen this season.
  9. Telescopes, Binoculars, and Astrophotography. This is a great way to find out what telescopes and binoculars are right for you (and your budget). Learn where to buy them, how much you’ll pay, and the different types. If you already have one, you’ll get tips on how to get most effective use out of it as well as how to take pictures of the night sky. You are welcome to bring your telescope and/or binoculars.
  10. The Inner Solar System
    An in-depth tour of the terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and the asteroids as seen through the ‘eyes’ of Earth-orbiting telescopes as well as those sent back by our robotic explorers: Mariner, Viking, Apollo, and Pathfinder.
  11. The Outer Solar System
    An in-depth tour of the gas giants: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and comets as seen through the ‘eyes’ of Earth-orbiting telescopes as well as those sent back by our robotic explorers: Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, and Cassini.
  12. Getting Started in Amateur Astronomy
    Bring the entire family for a down-to-Earth introduction to beginning star gazing. You will be encouraged to find your way around the night sky using only your naked eye, simple star charts, and binoculars.
  13. The Moon
    Our closest neighbor in space is the perfect place to begin exploring the universe. More than 250 features can be seen with only binoculars! We'll learn about the Moon's history, its craters, mountains ranges, seas, and oceans. Discover why it is being considered to be more like a planet.
  14. Hubble Space Telescope Images. Orbiting 350 miles above the Earth and clear of our dusty, murky atmosphere, Hubble has sent back more than 100,000 images. See why most of them surpass any taken by our ground based telescopes. It images the universe as it looked 12 billion years ago.
  15. Ad Astra (To the Stars)
    Someday we will travel to the stars. Learn about our present-day theories on what those starships may be like. You will discover how some that are dreamed up by science fiction writers may be accurate forecasting.
  16. Mars. Why has Mars always been considered a foreboding world and named after the Roman God of War? How did the idea of its canals get started? Is there a face on Mars? Why is it the best planet to colonize?
  17. The Milky Way Galaxy
    Our home galaxy contains upwards of 300 billion stars. You will become acquainted with the Milky Way’s size, shape, structure, and history through stunning photographs and video clips.
  18. Asteroids, Meteors and Comets
    Learn all about the solar system’s ‘junk’. Discover how to see pieces of Halley's Comet twice a year. How and when did an asteroid hit
    Central America and wipe out the dinosaurs and 70% of all life? What will happen when a larger asteroid named Eros collides with Earth in the distant future?
  19. The Last Day on Earth
    We’ll discuss at least 15 ways life on Earth can end due to internal and external forces? Some events can occur in as short a time as the next five seconds. Others can take a million or a billion years. How close must an exploding star be to Earth to destroy all life? No children under 12, please.
  20. Human Colonies in Space
    By the year 2029, as many as 10,000 people may be living in giant space habitats orbiting Earth. What will they look like? Where will they be placed? Would you believe they can be constructed using 1970s technology?
  21. Reasons for the Seasons
    Why is the Sun is 1 million miles closer to the Earth in January than it is in July? Why are there 7 days in a week and 12 months in a year? Where did the names of the days and months originate? What planet's day is longer than its year? What planet has double sunrises and double sunsets?
  22. Southfield Planetarium. Enjoy a live show in the Vollbrecht Planetarium where Mike has given more than 200 presentations as the resident astronomer and senior demonstrator. Our 70-seat facility is one of a few traditional planetariums that still uses the classic Spitz A-3P star ball projector. Tickets: $7.50
  23. Those Impossible New Planets. After 300 years of debate and after decades of scientific investigation, astronomers finally hit the jackpot. Extra-solar planets have been discovered circling distant stars! One problem. They don't seem to fit our theories of planet formation.
  24. Kids In Black. Mike ‘gears down’ two presentations, The Search for ET and UFOs, to suit a younger audience. He wears the "uniform" from the 1998 film, Men in Black, and awards participants membership certificates in the Astronomical Society of Michigan. Inexpensive sun glasses optional.
  25. The Whole Shebang. A truly visual feast touring the entire universe with images of galaxies, stars, nebulae, planets, and moons from a personal collection of more than 500 slides and 40 hours of video.