M42 – The Orion Nebula

The orion nebula is a diffuse nebula just south of Orion’s belt hidden in the three stars that represent his sword. The middle star of the sword is a whole lot more than the single star you see with your unaided eye, it actually consists of many stars being born within the nebula. The orion nebula is the closest massive star forming region to Earth. M42 is estimated to be 24 light years across and estimated to be roughly 1344 light years to Earth. This nebula is one of the most studied nebula for astronomers who have directly observed protoplanetary disks, brown dwarfs, turbulent motions of gas, and photo-ionizing effects of large nearby stars to the nebula. This nebula being so large can be seen with the unaided eye from non light polluted skies and given it’s large size wasn’t technically discovered by Charles Messier, but he included it in his list of objects as M42.

X Marks the spot of M42

X Marks the spot of M42

This nebula has many faint regions, but the section containing the trapezium is definitely visible through my 6” scope with a 30mm eyepiece. The trapezium is visible with it, but takes a strong power to split them nicely, I find the 4mm to do a pretty good job at it.

M42 02-09-13

This image is constructed of 41 light frames, 20 at 30 seconds, and 21 at 60 seconds both shot with an ISO of 400. Also included is 30 dark frames, 25 flat frames, and 34 bias frames. Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker and post processing done in Photoshop.

Omni XLT 150 with CG-4 mount
Canon 350D
T-ring and adapter
Polar Scope for alignment

Setting Stars -Time-lapse

The night of March 31st to the morning of April 1st I captured many images of the stars to make a time-lapse. I haven’t put one of these together since January, so I figured I’d have another go at it.

I set my camera up in my backyard next to my fence and had to aim over it along with the neighbors roof. Started capturing images around 8:30pm, and turned it off right before I headed to bed at around 3:30am. Each shot I took was at an exposure of 15seconds, ISO 400, and F3.1 with the intervalometer set to take a picture every 15 seconds. This is a bit different on how I usually do them, and I’m very pleased with how smooth it turned out.

Although the bright moon passes in my view, the video stars with Venus and Orion setting ends with Leo taking a nose dive towards the horizon. The bright orange “star” near the end, in Leo, is not a star, but is Mars.

The quality of the video is much better than the quality of this single frame youtube selected as the video image. So click play, select 720 or 1080, make full screen and enjoy 7 hours of star movement from the comfort of your computer chair in less than 30 seconds.

December 27, 2011 Viewing Session – M42 (Orion Nebula)

The day was clear, the sun was shining, and I was expecting to get a good view of the 2 day old crescent moon 7° from Venus in the western sky after sunset. That was destroyed by a thick layer of clouds that rolled in about 30 minutes before sunrise. After that I figured the sky was going to be cloudy all night. Around 9pm I let the dog out and I decided to have a look up, and the sky was clear. After letting the dog in I took the Astromaster 114EQ out with hopes of getting a few images that I could stack and make into a pretty image to share here. I had some luck, but need to fine tune and learn some adjustments to be made.
The Orion Nebula is a diffuse nebula just below (south) Orion’s Belt, and is also visible to the naked eye granted you have clear skies, and minimal light pollution. To find the M42, first find Orion’s Belt, look below it for the three fainter stars almost perpendicular to the belt. The middle of the three stars is where the nebula can be found. With the unaided eye you may notice that this middle star is a bit fuzzy, and that’s because of the nebula. Aim a pair of binoculars or a telescope at this and you will be amazed with how much of the nebula is visible.
At a distance of 1,344 light-years away this nebula shines quite bright through a telescope and handles magnification quite well. Although this is all that I was able to see through my telescope, this nebula is part of a much larger nebula within Orion known as the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Inside M42 there is quite a young cluster of stars known as the Trapezium. Through my telescope the Trapezium is just visible with the 32mm eyepiece and I can resolve 3 of the stars. I didn’t get the chance to magnify it anymore than that, but those three stars in the Trapezium turn into a total of six with good transparency and higher magnification.
This is a single image of M42 I took showing the Trapezium. Click to Enlarge.
Through the 32mm eyepiece M42 looks a lot like it does in my picture below. The image below was created with about 30 images stacked in Deep Sky Stacker at 3.2seconds F6.3 ISO400. Strapped the camera to the eyepiece set up a timer and let the pictures begin.
 Click to Enlarge
This second image was about a total of 70 images stacked, 30 of the images were the images used in the picture above, and the rest were taken at about 6seconds F4.5 ISO400. The central region of the nebula is a bit overexposed, but you can really start to see the shape of the nebula in this image. Hopefully I have clear skies soon, and will be able to spend more than just an hour with this nebula. By the time I had captured all these images a thin layer of clouds started rolling in.
 Click to Enlarge
Although the central area is overexposed I am still quite happy with the results I’m achieving with the setup I have. I finally have the tracking of the sky down to a point where I can take up to 15 second exposures and still have a decent enough picture to stack within Deep Sky Stacker, which is quite picky when it comes to even the slightest star trail. Now I just need to work on less exposure with a ton more images taken, or I need to screw around with some other settings.

EDIT: I have taken the two images and masked them in Gimp to come up with a much better image of the nebula. You can really make out the stars in the center of the nebula a bit more, and the central core of the nebula isn’t as overexposed.

Click to Enlarge


Betelgeuse, 2012, explode, end of the world, doomsday, supernova, twin suns, Orion

Betelgeuse is the red star seen in the constellation Orion, it is his right shoulder. Not to be confused with the movie, or cartoon Beetle Juice.
Since I’m into the whole astronomy thing, I figure I’ll keep this going with astronomy information. Especially after hearing the rumor that in 2012 Betelgeuse is going to explode, and produce a supernovae. Not only does the rumor state that it will explode, but it also states that when it does it will give the appearance of their being two suns in the sky here on Earth. It says we will have 24 hour day light for up to a couple of weeks. This little rumor seems to have started from The Huffington Post.
Yes, one day Betelgeuse will go out in a massive supernovae due to it’s size. Betelgeuse is about 20 times the mass of the sun and is near the end of it’s life. It is also roughly 600 Light Years away, which is way too far away to hurt us. It seems that people are trying to tie it’s explosion in with the doomsday date of December 21st 2012. The Huffington Post tried to attribute the date to Dr. Brad Carter, but in the original article he never gives an exact date. Being able to predict something like a star going supernovae as far as I know is impossible. The connection between the date and Betelgeuse’s demise is made by the article author, not Dr. Carter himself. Now because of the way media news travels, whether it be true or false this information has gotten everywhere. Unfortunately the story went viral rapidly and other media outlets quickly passed on the news. Luckily some major news outlets dismissed the specific dates and state it like it is; some day soon. Of course in the astronomer’s world soon doesn’t always mean withing the next year, it could mean 100,000 years from now (which is relativiely soon for a star), it could be next month, it could be longer. No one knows for sure but there is no definitive date on it’s explosion, and giving it an actual date is absurd.
The explosion of Betelgeuse won’t do any harm to Earth as a star needs to be relatively close, around 25 light years. Remember, Betelgeuse if about 600 light years away.
I just wanted to get that out there in case anyone is looking for information on how to get the best view next year when Betelgeuse goes. Save yourself the trouble of setting up plans and reservations. Probably don’t have to worry about it dominating the daytime sky, or even competing with out sun for that matter. It won’t be like the scene in Star Wars when watching the twin suns of Tatooine set. I love a good conspiracy theory, especially revolving around 2012, but this one I just can’t believe.
While I’m here I’d also like to throw in one more quick thing. If you get the forwarded e-mail claiming Mars will be as big as the moon in the night sky for a couple days, just throw that e-mail right in the trash. It’s complete rubbish. There is not a single point in it’s orbit that would get it that close to Earth. Just a heads up! I’ve seen that e-mail quite a few times over the last couple years.