M78 is the brightest diffuse reflection nebula in the sky. Discovered by Pierre Mechain in early 1780, Charles Messier added it to his catalog on December 17, 1780. M78 is at 1,600 light years.
The dust and molecular cloud forming M 78 is considered a proto-cluster meaning there are numerous knots of condensation consistent with the expected model of pre-stellar formation. Within a short astronomical time frame, there may be the birth of a cluster similar to the Pleiades.
The bright portion of the dust cloud to the left is identified as NGC 2071.