SUPERCEDED-NEWER VERSION AVAILABLE---M42 - The Great Nebula in Orion-0112 Processing
SUPERCEDED-NEWER VERSION AVAILABLE---M42 - The Great Nebula in Orion-0112 Processing
SUPERCEDED-NEWER VERSION AVAILABLE---M42 - The Great Nebula in Orion-0112 Processing
M42, commonly called the Orion Nebula, is a fascinating region of star formation. In this image, most of the stars are brand new "baby" stars typically on the order of ten to a few hundred thousand years old. Astronomers have identified around 700 stars that are formed from this nebula. In this photo, you can easily see the "Trapezium" - the bright asterism of 6 stars in the center of the nebula (of which 4 are visible in this image).

The red areas in the nebula are mostly shining from hot hydrogen gas in the nebula. The blue areas are mostly dust that reflects the light of the hot blue stars. One of these areas is at the top of the image - the circular nebula above the main nebula is actually another Messier object - M43.

This complex is easily visible with the naked eye. When looking at the constellation Orion, M42 and M43 are part of Orion's "sword" just south of the 3 bright stars that make up Orion's belt. To the unaided eye, the sword clearly appears fuzzy - not sharp like a star.

In this image, North is up.

Exposure Details
Lens Celestron C-8 SCT with Celestron focal reducer
Focal Length 1260mm
Focal Ratio f/6.3
Mount Schaefer GEM - 7 1/2 Byers Gear
Guiding 80mm f/11 guidescope with PHD Guiding
Camera Canon 450D - Gary Honis modified
Exposure 63 subexposures of 15 sec @ ISO 200, 59 of 30 sec @ ISO 1600, 56 of 180 sec @ ISO 1600 - about 3 1/2 hours total
Calibration 30 darks, 30 flats, 30 bias
Date December 27, 2011
Temperature 45F
SQM Reading
Seeing 3 of 5
Location Pine Mountain Club, California
Software Used Images Plus 4.0 for camera control, calibration, stacking, digital development, and multiresolution smoothing. Photoshop CS5 used for flat fielding, levels and curves, combining and masking images, color balance, high pass filter, star shrinking, saturation adjustments, and noise reduction. Carboni Tools for additional saturation adjustments and noise reduction.
Notes This is the second time I've imaged M42. This version represents a big improvement over last year's version and is the first time I composited images (combining more than one image to make a single image). While M42 is very bright and easy to image, it has an extremely wide range of brightness levels (high dynamic range). Because of this, its not possible to capture the faint outer regions without dramatically overexposing the interior. Conversely, if you expose for the interior regions (the Trapezium), you won't capture the faint outer nebulosity.

In this image, I combined 15, 30, and 180 second exposures. By layering these images together and using some masks, I was able to maintain details from the inner core to the outer edges. I believe the technique worked very well, and I'm quite proud of this astrophoto.

The earlier version of M42 is HERE.

This image won 1st place in the Digital Astro Challenge for January 2012.

If you liked this picture, you might also want to view:

SUPERCEDED-NEWER VERSION AVAILABLE---M42 - The Great Nebula in Orion - February 2011 version