M42 - The Orion Nebula

Physics Photo of the Week, Warren Wilson College
Feb. 20, 2004

This is the Orion Nebula photographed through a 3-1/2 inch Questar telescope on Jan 11, 2004 at the Warren Wilson Physics Department.  The photo consists of 9 15 sec exposures aligned and stacked.  The camera is a Canon A60 digital camerea.    The Orion Nebula is an emission nebula and a region of intense star formation.  In the center of the cloud lie several extremely hot O-type stars which give off lots of invisible ultraviolet radiation in addition to visible white light.  The UV radiation is absorbed by the huge clouds of gaseous hydrogen which then re-radiate it in the visible regiion - similar to a fluorescent lamp.  You can also see dark structures in the clouds which are too dense for the light to penetrate.  For more information, see: http://www.seds.org/messier/m/m042.html

Above is the familiar Orion Constellation (The hunter) very prominent in the southern skies in the early evening in February.  Notice the belt of 3 bright blue-white stars.  Notice the very red bright star Betelgeuse at the upper left in the photo and the blue-white star Rigel in the lower right.  The Orion Nebula (M42) is indicated with the arrow - the middle region of the hunter's sword.  The constellation photo was obtained with the same digital camera with about 4 - 15 sec images stacked together and further digitally enhanced to emphasize the contrasting colors.

Both photos by Donald Collins