'The Great Nebula of Orion', 26 February 1883.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph of the Great Nebula in Orion, taken 26 February 1883 by Andrew Ainsle Common (1841-1903), an acclaimed early pioneer of astrophotography. A succesful heating engineer and amateur astronomer, this image was made using Common's 36-inch reflecting telescope at his home in Ealing, West London in England. This is one of the first high-resolution photographs of the nebula and clearly shows details invisible to observers using the naked eye alone. The Orion nebula, visible to the naked eye as a hazy patch, was first recorded being observed with a telescope in 1610 by Frenchman, Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc. A large glowing cloud of hydrogen gas where new stars form, the nebula lies at a distance of some 1500 light-years.