The Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion

January 29, 2016


Photographer: Greg Parker
Summary Author: Greg Parker
Shown above is a very deep image (more than 15 hours of total exposure time) of the Great Nebula region in the Sword of Orion taken from the New Forest Observatory in Brockenhurst, England. The Great Nebula (M42), though approximately 1,350 light years away, can be observed with the naked eye even from many urban locations. M42 is the blurry middle "star" in Orion's Sword and is estimated to be around 24 light years across. The very bright core of M42 is illuminated by the famous Trapezium group of stars. This magnificent star-forming region is some 2,000 times as massive as the Sun. Orion now dominates the mid-latitude night sky in both hemispheres.
The circular "Birds Head" region with the central bright star that joins M42 at the top is designated M43, another Messier object. Just above M43 is a region of reflection nebulosity known as The Running Man nebula. Can you see him? Finally, the very bright blue star at the bottom (south end) of M42 is 44. It's a quadruple star system also known as Iota Orionis or Hatsya "the bright one of the sword."
Image Details: Taken with a Hyperstar III on a C11 telescope with an M25C OSC CCD camera. My deep sky image is a little unusual in that I also included some narrowband, hydrogen alpha (H-alpha) data to bring out more of the emission nebulosity. Additionally, near infrared data were employed, using an R72 infrared pass filter, that lets through light with wavelengths longer than 720 nm and cuts out light below this wavelength.