M-42, The Great Orion Nebula and the Sword of Orion
Click image for larger version.
Look up into the night sky on a winter's night and standing to the south is the most recognized constellation of all, Orion the Hunter. A sword hangs from his belt made up of three "stars". This image shows those "stars" in a bit more detail than you'll see with your naked eye. As this image is oriented, north is to the right (or up as you look at Orion in the southern sky).
The top "star" of the sword, the one on the right side of this image is NGC 1977, the Running Man Nebula named for the profile of a running man that shows up under long exposure photography. This is officially classified as an open cluster of stars but also includes much reflection nebulosity and dust lanes.
The middle "star" of the sword is The Great Orion Nebula consisting of M42 (NGC 1976) the main part of the nebula and M43 (NGC 1982) the right most part that looks like an upside down comma. This nebula is stunning even visually with the brighter segments taking on the shape of a huge bat wing with many pressure ridges and other textures visible. At higher magnifications the core of the nebula show up with the stars of the Trapezium right below the comma of M43. The nebula is about 1,600 light years distant.
The third "star", the tip of the sword, is the open cluster of stars to the left of the nebula known as NGC 1980. The brightest of these stars is Nair al Saif a bit closer to us than the nebula at about 1,300 light years distant. This is a massive blue giant star and a double star about 24 times larger than our sun and over 53,000 times brighter.
The region is a stellar nursery where new stars and solar systems are born. The Hubble telescope has imaged new stars with proto-planetary disks formed around them, disks from which planets will form just as our own sun, solar system and the Earth itself were formed some 4 billion years ago.
The brownish clouds lying outside of the main nebulosity are simply more gas (primarily hydrogen) that are a small part of the Orion B complex that extends well beyond the traditional stars that make up the profile of the hunter.
Location: 4Domes Observatory
Telescope: TMB130SS @ f/4.7
Guiding: Maxim DL w/ Starlight Xpress Lodestar Off Axis
Last Updated: 11/12/2014 - Copyright © 2004-2013 by Dan Lessmann. All rights reserved. Please click here for my usage policy.