Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Into the heart of Orion - M42 with 5 second exposures

Occasionally, while framing and focusing an object it helps to use short exposures (a few seconds) to expedite the process.  In doing so, bright objects such as M42, the Orion Nebula, show far greater detail since the starlight does not overwhelm the surrounding nebulosity.
In this example which combines 13 - 5 second images:

the 4 stars in the "Trapezium" are clearly resolved (discernable).

Also, notice the 2 or 3 stars to the lower left of the Trapezium. The image actually recorded the cones, depicting stellar material being blown away from the nascent stars - more commonly known for their appearance in the "Cone Nebula" (NGC2264) seen here: http://www.pbase.com/wjshaheen/image/121942660/large .

Interestingly, in the M42 image, the cones do not point directly away from the Trapezium. Is there possibly an even larger brighter star, or stars, hidden behind the dust to the left of the Trapezium?

Bill Shaheen
Superstition Mountain Astronomical League
Gold Canyon, AZ

Update: 23-Feb-2011

I am pleased to report that I have resolved the question of what appeared (to me at least) to be light cones in the heart of the Orion Nebula.

Last evening, I imaged the area under investigation using a hydrogen alpha filter and without binning, i.e., higher resolution. It is much more apparent to me now after reducing the star halo that what appeared to be the right side of a cone is afterall a separate feature.

Here is the original image that prompted my question:

Here is the Ha image from last night:

And here is a side-by-side comparison with the area highlighted:

It seems rather obvious now that what looked to me to be the illuminated right side of a light cone is actually a separate feature, and may in fact reside in the foreground.

This demonstrates the advantage of using higher resolution imaging and the use of narrow-band filtering to reveal the true detail.  And, of course, that appearance can indeed be deceiving.

Thanks for looking,

Bill Shaheen
Superstition Mountain Astronomical League
Gold Canyon, AZ

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