Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Orion is one of my favorite constellations. The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex (aka, the Orion Complex) is located within the constellation.  It is a vast nebula that spans hundreds of light years. Some parts of the nebula are visible in binoculars and small telescopes.

This wide-angle shot of the sky includes Orion and several neighboring constellations. The glow on the lower portion of the image is light pollution from Huntsville, TX.

Orion and Vicinity
Orion and Vicinity with Labels. (The Running Man nebula is mislabeled as Messier 43.)
There are several stories associated with the constellations around Orion. In one, Orion is defending himself with a club against Taurus, the bull. Sirius, one of his hunting dogs, has flushed out a rabbit, Lepus. Another story associates Taurus with the bull from whose hide Orion was born.

Most of the Orion Complex's features can only be seen through long-exposure imaging. One of these features is called Barnard's Loop, which is named after E. E. Barnard, the astronomer who is generally credited with having discovered it. Barnard's Loop is thought to have been formed by several supernovae. The gas is being ionized by several bright stars in the constellation, which gives the loop is red color.

Orion and Barnard's Loop
Orion and Barnard's Loop with Labels
The Sword of Orion is located below Orion's Belt.  It contains the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), De Mairan's Nebula (Messier 43) and the Running Man nebula. The Great Orion Nebula is visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy "star." Here is a close-up view of the Sword of Orion, taken with the Epsilon-200:

Sword of Orion, E-200, 11x10+4x30+10x60+6x120+4x180
I took this image of the Sword of Orion with my DSLR at prime focus on the ST80:

Sword of Orion, ST80, 23x30
The central part of the nebula is illuminated by a group of large, hot, young stars called the Trapezium Cluster. Below is a close-up of the Trapezium region:

The Trapezium Cluster
This is Messier 78, a reflection nebula. I was really surprised how well this image turned out because I shot it using my ST80 on the EQ-1 mount:

Messier 78, ST80, 7x30
And, finally, the Horsehead and Flame nebulae near the bright star Alnitak, in Orion's Belt:

Horsehead and Flame Nebulae, E-200, 16x180

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