Hunting the Hunter

I couldn’t believe it – finally a chance to catch the great Orion Nebula whilst still in the early springtime sky. The Orion Nebula has been an elusive object. It’s one of the first deep sky objects I tried photographing through my new CPC-800 telescope in 2015. And I did manage to grab a marginally acceptable photo with no tracking nor polar alignment. That picture’s on the front page of this website to illustrate this amateur astronomer’s first primitive attempt at astrophotography. But the results were enticing enough to propel my interest forward, so mission accomplished!

Although one of the most photographed and favorite targets of amateur astronomers everywhere, this nebula is a winter object. Winters in the Adirondacks – need I say more? How about “radiational cooling”, or “snow” or “dreary winter clouds”. Or just “freaking cold”! No, the unyielding Adirondack whether leaves little consideration for astronomers!

So, the Orion Nebula (M42) has remained on my list for a long time. It’s a fantastic nebula that is best observed in the dead of winter. And I’ve tried. Whenever there’s a nice, clear night, radiational cooling takes over and temperatures plummet. Or – there’s no place to setup a telescope among the dirty snow banks. Or the moon is full. You get the picture. But things converged this year on April 9th. Good weather, tolerable temperatures near (but above) freezing, light winds, no moon…I had to take a stab at it before the opportunity was gone for another year, as Orion was already drifting towards the western horizon.

And speaking of the picture, here it is – somewhat over-exposed in the center to bring out gasses of the stellar nursery. Further down is my first try from 2015. That photo is zoomed in a bit more and rotated clockwise a bit. See if you can pick out the series of three bright stars, three somewhat dimmer stars – all sort of forming a triangle in the center of each image.

M42 – The Orion Nebula. Twenty, two-minute exposures @ 1600 ISO for a total 40 minute exposure time. CPC-800 telescope with a f6.3 focal reducer. Canon T5i camera.
The bright central star mass is “blown out” in order to bring out details in the nebulous gasses. The bright stars are way brighter than the gasses! Oh well, maybe some day I’ll get a camera with more dynamic range!

The Great Orion Nebula from 2015. This was my first attempt back then, with no polar tracking and without the f6.3 focal reducer (for a wider-angle shot).

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