Orion’s Sword – Dust and Reflections

| 3 images

My astrophotography career got off to a pretty good start early this year. February 12th, 2014, I finally purchased an equatorial tracking mount, the Orion Atlas EQ-G. I used my Canon EF 600mm f/4 L II lens as a telescope, and my 7D as an imager. I was able to get a couple of great images knowing practically nothing…my Horse Head and Flame nebula image, and my Orion and Running Man image. The first image shared here is a re-share of that original Orion and Running Man nebula. This target is a relatively easy one for beginners…it is ULTRA bright as far as nebula go…and visible the naked eye (faintly under city light…quite well under darker skies.)

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to see what I could do with that original data I’d gathered so many months ago. The second image demonstrates the additional detail I was able to bring out, as well as some richer (and probably more accurate) color. There were significant limitations with the data, though, making it difficult for me to actually pull out as much detail in the images background dust nebula (which are extremely faint and difficult to see even with an extremely large, very powerful telescope).

I decided to try imaging the nebula again, now that I do actually know what I am doing. The third image I’m sharing today is my second attempt at this region of the constellation Orion. In this case, it is the entirety of Orion’s Sword, as well as a fair amount of the surrounding region revealing the extent and depth of the dust that, in actuality, fills the entire constellation. A couple additional blue reflection nebula can be seen along the top, bright stars faintly revealing the nearby dust. The large lane of dust that separates Running Man and Orion Nebula is revealed in all it’s detail, a complicated, roiling mass of darkness pocked by buried stars. A great expanse of extended structure can be seen, faintly reflecting the collected light from all the nearby stars and emission nebula…glowing a barely visible faint reddish-brown. To the right and the lower right corner of the image, some additional reflection nebula can be seen, along with small orange colored stars revealing themselves from within the dust itself.

Within Orion Nebula, the complexity of the layers upon layers of structure is now visible. Dark filaments of dust reach out from the bright core, swirling away downwards and towards the right. A bright inner layer of dust veils the reddish hydrogen emission nebula beyond, writhing and wrapping around a cavity dug out by the stars of the core itself, the Trapezium (not visible here). The veil spills out over the edges of the cavity, flowing into the surrounding layers of dust and reaches out into space. The hydrogen emission nebula extends behind the layers of obscuring and veiling dust in the foreground, to once again reveal itself as the reddish core of the Running Man nebula, which is a compound nebula…both reflecting the brilliant blue light of the nearby stars and emitting a faint red glow itself.