Orion’s first trek through my part of the night sky since I began my space/physics/astronomy obsession a year and a half ago. It actually began while Orion was up, but I had no idea how to photograph it, and with minimal magnification through my small binoculars, no idea how outstanding this constellation was.
I just needed a year to refine and learn the skills to look closer and capture these beautiful, distant objects. If it’s clear tonight, I will turn my sights towards a lesser known object in Orion. The time to find it is now because even while Orion is still in prime viewing space for us, it is beginning to descend closer to the western horizon until it shows up during the holiday season (fall/winter).
Anyhow, whereas this photo is of Orion’s sword (just below his belt), tonight’s target is above the left star of his belt (Orion Nebula is just below that same star). It is officially called M78 (Messier Object 78) and is a nebula. Specifically, a reflection nebula. Emission Nebulas are all very similar to the Great Orion Nebula (M42/M43) where the light emitting through the nebulous clouds come from rapid star formation at the heart of the nebula. It releases heat, light and glows gas every which way. Reflection nebulas are clouds which reflect light off nearby stars which are not related to the nebula itself.
It’s just a dim cloud of gas, possibly waiting to one day condense and make stars, or was blown into space as a left over remnant of some previous mechanism. It will be hard to know if I have captured it until I get home and stack ten to twenty photos.. so.. here’s to good sky conditions and a little bit of luck!
(Below: The first photo is of M78 itself, through a smaller telescope so most average astronomers like myself know how it would look if one went to view it. The bottom photo is a star chart of Orion, showing stars, deep sky objects etc.)