Update: very chuffed to have this image shown on Brian Cox and Dara O’Brian’s Stargazing Live show on the BBC 😉

Yet another Greater Orion Nebula shot. Yes I know, have been there before but it’s still my favourite object in the night sky. A wondrous example of what our now universal city light pollution is hiding from us.

Anyway, for those who don’t follow astronomy this is the Greater Orion Nebula (M42 or NGC 1976). Situated in the Constellation of Orion the Hunter, a short distance below the 3 stars of Orion’s Belt and it’s one of the brightest nebulae in the sky – a combination of reflection and emmission nebulae. M42 is enormous, at 24 light years across for the core nebula from our perspective and quite close at around 1350 light years distance. It’s also often referred to as a “stellar nursery” as this area is home to many young stars and is a particularly active region of star formation – no surprise given the mass of dust of gas in there. The central Trapezium cluster is known to be one of the youngest star clusters discovered. Unfortunately the trapezium is a bit blown out in this image, but one can just about make out the partial outline of four distinct stars in there.

m42 - the Greater Orion Nebula

Click for a larger view

The fantastic colours are caused by emmission at the hydrogen alpha line (656.3nm) due to excitement of the hydrogen atoms (the red colour) and reflection of radiation from the stars at the core (for the more bluish / purple colours).

Modded 450D at prime focus on a William Optics 90FD refractor mounted on a Celestron ASGT and guided with Nebulosity and a black and white toucam.

Taken from Annaghkeen, Headford, Co Galway, Ireland

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