Image taken my one of our club members – Ross Biddle

The Orion Nebula M42- is probably one of the most photographed deep-space astronomical objects. It is one of the closest major star-forming regions and probably includes 6+ stellar giant type O and A stars. These are the biggest types of main and pre-main sequence stars and are extremely active and short-lived. M42 is about 1340 light years away and 24 light years across. In 2006 Hubble identified more than 3000 stars within the region.

The big stars in the core and the associated stellar nursery are surrounded by clouds of gas and dust which are then illuminated by the stars. This is in contrast to many of the nebula that are popular with imagers that are associated with supernova events (star end of life). Messier 42 was the catalogue name given by the French comet hunter Charles Messier.

While the object is considered to be a naked eye object it benefits from a small telescope or binoculars.

This image is ‘natural colour’ and shot with a OSC (one shot colour camera). The dynamic range of the object is large which tends to result in the central core being blown out and obscuring the visible central stars although I have managed to control this in the final image. I have also attempted to capture the dust lanes around the nebula.

With this image you get 2 for the price of 1 with the Running Man nebula Sh2-279 on the left side of the image. Sh2-279 actually comprises of a number of NGC components, NGC 1973, NGC 1975, and NGC 1977 that are divided by darker nebulous regions. It also includes the Open Cluster NGC 1981.

The image is built from approximately 4 hours of 15, 30 and 60 seconds exposures, taken over 3 nights in Feb/March 2024. The telescope was a heavily modified ‘budget’ GSO 150mm F4 Newtonian, IMX571 OSC Camera and lExtreme and Antlia RGB filters. The mount used was an EQ6 but given the short exposures and payload this was probably overkill. The ‘seeing’ on each night was somewhere between poor and very poor and worsened by fresh breezes as evidenced by terrible guiding scores and oblong stars on many of the frames. The magic of BlurExterminator removed most of these problems.

Stacking and preprocessing were within Astro Pixel Processor. The majority of processing was then completed in Pixinsight. In addition to the normal gradient correction, blur/star/noise exterminators, SCNR, SPCC, GHS a lot of work was done with range/colour/game masks to apply processes selectively. These included curves, histogram transformation, colour saturation etc. For those who have recently started on Pixinsight, these terms may be familiar.

To see more more images by our membership, check out the deepsky imaging section here.