Monday, December 3, 2012

M42 The Great Orion Nebula

So far this November and December has been unseasonably warm here in Tucson.  It is a bit disconcerting, actually, as the days are still comfortable for wearing shorts.  Working as I do on Mount Lemmon, I have this nagging feeling that we may not get much snowfall this winter, which the mountain needs.  This is not a post about climate change,  but I do want to point to an excellent piece by Phil Plait today taking on climate change denial.

With the high pressure system that seems to have permanently parked itself in our neck of the planet, we have had some phenomenal nights for observing at the Lost Pleiad Observatory.  With temperatures requiring only a sweatshirt, I spent the better part of last night cruising around the winter milky way.  Using my TEC 140 I spent hours enjoying many wide field views, especially those of my old friends the Messier objects.   Before retiring I thought to myself  "self, you should try and take a picture of the Orion Nebula!"

I brought out my laptop and camera and using BackyardEOS took a few images of the Great Orion Nebula.   Below is the result, of which I am shocked!  This was taken with the moon up in the sky, without accurately polar aligning my CGEM mount, and with a Baader UHC filter.  The single image is 50 seconds at ISO 3200, and was actually a little more detailed before I messed with it in Photoshop to try and make the background sky more black.  I should probably give the raw image to my friend Mike (are you reading this?) and he could make it very pretty.
Click to enlarge

Most amazing is our camera sensor technologies...look at images in astronomy texts from even 15 years ago and see what was being generated with large instruments over hours of exposure time...and consider that I am using a 140mm telescope and an exposure of less than one minute!


  1. Excellent Work. The focus looks spot on....the polar alignment/periodic error's leaving a touch to be desired, but you knew that would be the case when you attached the camera. I'm really impressed at how clean the image is at ISO 3200. This newest batch of DSLR's is impressive in that regard. My Canon 350D wouldn't even do ISO 3200...and my current 60D is pretty noisy at that ISO.

    Each astrophoto you post makes me think of The Godfather 3 with Al Pacino saying "Just when I thought I was pulls me back in." I paraphrase, but it feels appropriate. Talk to you soon.

  2. Most excellent given an unfavorable moon and LP. Keep dabbling, Alan. Soon enough I will be using your images as finder charts for Shak.

  3. @Mike- the DSLR is amazing...ISO actually goes to something like 12800!
    @Chris- The worst night observing with Shak is better than the best night imaging...sorry Mike!