M42 The Great Orion Nebula

Winter brings us the great nebula in Orion's sword. All astronomers look forward to the first glimpses of the massive bright nebula. I'll stay up til dawn in late summer to see it rising just before the sun. The nebula is rich in detail and requires much time to delve into its treasures. It is so bright that it plays tricks with our senses in late spring. Just after the sun sets, the great nebula is alive with color not typically seen in the heavens. Hues of browns, ruddy reds, and soft purples trick our senses of what should be there.

M42 is extremely bright and large (30 light years across). Through the telescope, it typically is observed as having a greenish glow. The emission nebula is thick with stellar nurseries and the Hubble Space Telescope has observed solar systems in the making.

The 4 bright stars of the Trapezium, not seen in this photograph, light the central portion of the nebula. We estimate this nebula to be 1500 light years away.


M43 C8 SCT F6.3, 15 min exposure on K Gold 1000
The trapezium area is seldom captured in photos due to the brightness of these young stars. As can be seen in the top photo, the central region of the nebula is completely burned out (white). I undertook the task of "seeing" what's really there on a moon lit night recently. The task required a series of very short exposures with a CCD camera.
Too long an exposure would cause blooming in the CCD device. The photo at left contains a combination of 12 separate exposures of 15 seconds each. 6 exposures 
each through red, green, and blue filters with an ST7 CCD. 
The beautiful pinks, browns, and other subdued tones we find in many public relations pieces are a result of shooting with color biased film and hours of careful darkroom manipulation.