Imaging the Orion Nebula (M42)

The Orion is a constellation that can be seen between November and February and is one of the most recognizable groups of stars that can be viewed in the Winter sky.  Since the beginning of Winter, I have watched the constellation rise as the sun sets and last night, I finally got to take my first image of the Great Orion Nebula.  Known as M42, the Orion Nebula is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth and is about 24 light years across and is a stellar nursery, where new stars are being born.

Takahashi Sky90 II, Orion 80mm Guide Scope, Celestron CG-5 Mount and MaximDL 5 (on the computer)

Takahashi Sky90 II, Orion 80mm Guide Scope, Celestron CG-5 Mount and MaximDL 5 (on the computer)

I went out in my backyard around 6:30pm, which is earlier than I usually go out.  The night was clear so I calibrated my mount and set everything up for a 2 hour imaging session.  One of the first things I did before setting the image sequence was to set my mount guiding so the telescope and camera move with the rotation of the stars.  After that was set, I focused the camera.  Since the CCD camera is attached to the telescope, I need to take a series of continuous images in order to verify that the nebula was in focus.  Here is an example of what that image looks like:

Orion Nebula Focus output from Maxim DL

Orion Nebula Focus output from Maxim DL

Once I was happy with the focus, I then set the MaximDL program to take a series of 24, 5 minute exposures using the Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) filter.  I took this image with the Ha filter due to the presence of mostly hydrogen gas.  The image is monochrome as I did not take any Red, Green, or Blue images.  About an hour through my imaging session, the clouds came rolling through and blanketed the night sky, thus ending my session a early.  I did end up salvaging 10, 5 minute exposures that were usable so I stacked them all together in the image below.  Although I was very excited to see the output, the image is unfortunately out of focus but I am having fun learning about imaging the amazing objects in deep space.

Orion Nebula (M42)

Orion Nebula (M42)

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