Orion Nebula, early on a cold frosty morning

Last night was the first frost of the autumn for us; so naturally I stayed out getting cold all night. I had a list of Messier clusters that I wanted to see but apart from that I was also hoping to get a glimpse of M42 & M43 in Orion. It’s really too early in the autumn for viewing Orion from here, the height of our mountain horizon is such that Orion’s belt is just creeping above the forestry as morning twilight dawns. Never the less its nice to see a long lost friend.

_MG_7796  M42 Orion

All frosty & misty

 at home this morning.


 Orion rises above the forestry,

 as the misty dawn sky starts to lighten.



As you can see, morning was accompanied by significant levels of valley mist and the night had been punctuated with skimming clouds & showers. Transparency wasn’t to bad in between times though. So as 4-30am turned into 5am I swapped the SCT off the mount, in favour for my 400mm Canon. A few pressured minutes focusing & aligning on Orion left me with just enough time to fire off a handful of 45 second exposures in the ever lightening sky. Shoot some darks and some flats, then time for breakfast. I haven’t processed my cluster data yet but I’ve rushed out the Orion data. The image below shows: M42 (The Great Orion Nebula or NGC 1976) – M43 (de Marian’s Nebula or NGC 1982) – NGC 1977 (The Running Man) – NGC 1981 (Open Cluster) – plus a variety of Orion’s beautiful coloured background stars.

m42-180907-a7d-webf  Click image for larger view

Messier 42 & its neighboring DSOs are all located a little below Orion’s belt and a good pair of binoculars is all that is needed to start enjoying this view. I hope to return to image Orion in further detail at the end of the year when the brave hunter is higher in the northern skies and I can perhaps gain more than just the 8 minutes 45 seconds of exposure that was used in the image above. For more details and an example of what can be gleaned from one short exposure have a look at my Messier info card for M42, below:

M42 Sept07  Click image for larger view

Probably one of the most viewed Messier objects, M42 was first discovered by a Mr Fabri de Peiresc in 1610. Galileo studied the region shortly afterwards and discovered the Trapezium star cluster that is embedded within M42. The region is one of star birth, where dust & gas aggregates together to form new stars & perhaps planets too. The red colouration is due to ionised hydrogen (H alpha emissions) whilst the blue-mauve colours are due to large type O stars that illuminate the surrounding dust. There is also a slight green tinge and this is due to the ionisation of Oxygen. The final image below was binned 2×2 and given aggressive processing to emphasise the gas ionisation colours & dust clouds.

m42-180907-c5-bin-webf  Click image for a larger view

If you would like to learn more about this fabulous nebula, may I recommend the excellent article on the Wikipedia.



  • Peter Williamson

    July 29, 2008 at 10:53 pm Reply

    Hi Anne

    I note your reference to 2×2 binning of, what I assume is, a DSLR image.
    I have ben looking for software to do this, but could not find any. Can you point me in the right direction?

    Appreciate any help.
    Regards, Peter Williamson

  • antamuk

    July 30, 2008 at 12:54 am Reply

    Hello Peter,

    No problem, I use Christian Buil’s “Iris” software for stacking, stretching & mathmatical operations like binning.

    It’s available from http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/us/iris/iris.htm

    Binning is available from the Geometry menu.

    Good Luck

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