M42 The Great Orion Nebula and the Running Man
Click the image for a larger version (190KB)
M42, The Great Nebula in Orion is visible to the naked eye as a bright
"fuzzy star" in the constellation of Orion. It is the 'star' in the middle
of Orion's, sword which hangs from his belt. M42 is the brightest diffuse (red)
nebula in the sky. It is the large pink and blue object in my photograph above.
It is a very rewarding sight in binoculars and telescopes, however only long
exposure photography will reveal the colorful gas clouds. It is such a bright,
colorful object that most new astronomers (and all astrophotographers) are drawn to
it. For astrophotography it is perhaps the easiest Deep Sky Object to image because
it is just so bright and colorful. In the upper left of the photo you'll
see the blue reflection nebula known as the Running Man. If you use your imagination
there is a "running man" visible (on the edge of the frame, sorry!) in the blue
The M42 nebula in Orion occupies an area of sky about four times the
apparent size of the moon.
It is about one degree in diameter (which is twice as big as the moon looks to us here on
In reality it is much bigger than the moon. It is in fact huge. M42 is
located 1,600 light years away
and is about 30 light years wide.
The above image is my FIRST Prime-Focus SLR camera image of a deep sky
object (DSO). Prime-focus DSLR or SLR photography requires very precise polar
alignment and tracking. Video is more forgiving.
This image was taken with a Canon 350D at prime focus F=812mm (ASA 1600) with
camera's Noise Reduction on. It was made from 36 x 30 second exposures (RAW) stacked
in Maxim DSLR Processed as a composite in Adobe ImageReady.
The image is a bit under 2 degrees wide.
A Schmidt-Newtonian telescope doesn't normally have much in the way of
diffraction patterns (spikes) on stars. At bottom right of the above image the
bright blue star has a significant diffraction pattern. This was caused by the
filaments of a small web that a spider has built on the glass corrector plate at the front
of the scope.
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