M 79

Photo by Pittendreigh


First challenge -- find the constellation Lepus. It is not one of the most popular constellations and beginners won't be the only ones who might have trouble remembering where it is and what it looks like.

Here's a hint -- forget Lepus and find Orion. It's a lot easier. Look under Orion's feet. Just as Orion's belt is made up of a row of three stars, Lepus is made up of TWO rows of three stars. Unlike Orion's belt, these are not straight, but have a slight curve. These two parallel rows are about the same distance from the feet of Orion as the Orion's feet is from his belt.

Having found those two rows, you have found Lepus. As illustrated in the charts for M79, you want to locate a triangle of stars just below the bottom curving row of stars in Lepus. This triangle seems to point toward Lepus.

Zoom in on the head of that triangle's point. That will be star 41 Leporis. M79 will not be visible in your viewfinder. Look at 41 Lepus in your telescope on low power and slowly scan from there. The cluster may well be in the same field of view as 41 Lepus, but you may have to scan beyond it to find M79.

Another way to find it is to find the center stars in each of the two rows of Lepus mentioned above. These will be Alpha and Beta Leporis. Draw an imaginary line from Alpha and Beta to extend in the direction opposite of Orion. Continue this imaginary line for the same distance that is apparent between Alpha and Beta and you should find M79.


M79 will appear as a small nebula with a central star. It offers an interesting appearance on an evening with poor viewing. Because of the atmospheric disturbance of the low horizon, it will appear to fluctuate, flutter and change shape.

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