M42 (Great Nebula in Orion), The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae

M42, Horsehead and Flame

M42 - The Great Nebula in Orion, The Horsehead Nebula and The Flame Nebula

The Orion Nebula M42 is the brightest diffuse nebula in the sky, and one of the brightest deepsky objects of all. It is visible to the naked eye under moderately good conditions, and rewarding in telescopes of every size, from the smallest glasses to the greatest Earth-bound observatories as well as outer-space observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. It is also a big object in the sky, extending to over 1 degree in diameter, thus covering more than four times the area of the Full Moon.

As it is so well visible to the naked eye, one may wonder that its nebulous nature was apparently not documented before the invention of the telescope. However, the brightest stars within the nebula were noted early and cataloged as one bright star of about fifth magnitude: In about 130 AD, Ptolemy included it in his catalog, as did Tycho Brahe in the late 16th century, and Johann Bayer in 1603 - the latter cataloging it as Theta Orion in his Uranometria. In 1610, Galileo detected a number of faint stars when first looking at this region with his telescope, but didn't note the nebula. Some years later, on February 4, 1617, Galileo took a closer look at the main star, Theta1, and found it to be triple, at his magnification of 27 or 28x, again not perceiving the nebula.

The remarkable Horsehead is a dark globule of dust and non-luminous gas, obscuring the light coming from behind, especially the moderately bright nebula IC 434. It is the most remarkable feature of an interesting region of diffuse nebulae, which belongs to a huge cloud of gas and dust situated 1,600 light years away in the direction of constellation Orion. The bright reflection nebula in the lower left is NGC 2023. ]

The Flame Nebula, to the left of the Horsehead, is illuminated by Alnitak, the left-most star in Orion's Belt.

Apogee U16M camera w Astrodon Gen II filters
Takahashi FSQ Refractor w Robofocus
Two frame mosaic:
9 x 5 min for each half plus 9 x 30sec for the core of M42. All in H-Alpha
Paramount ME guided w ST-402 and eFinder
Image acquisition in CCDSoft5

Conditions were less than ideal and I was battling a lot of thin cloud coming and going over the night. Hence the halos around the bright stars.

Calibration, Alignment and Sigma Reject combine in Maxim
Levels, Curves and mosaic in PS CS4

Click on the image to see it 2x in size or to have your browser resize it for your screen.

Captured Nov 29th 2010
Flesherton, Ontario