Friday, 14 October 2016

Chasing Orion's stellar nursery.

Wide awake 3.00 am... outside the stars were shining brightly.
I didn't want to disturb Helen, so I tried to get back to sleep.... no chance! 

I couldn't see Orion through the low south facing window,  but I knew he was there, hanging in the sky, just waiting for a chance to show off. 

I started thinking about the Orion nebula...

Here's a sketch that I made of the nebula... almost 10 years ago...!

Stellar Nursery M42 the Orion Nebula - 150mm Newtonian reflector. 2006

In those ten years I have observed the nebula through various instruments, from 40mm refractors to an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain.

This morning I would be able to observe with an even larger aperture.
I've been waiting since June to unleash "Oscar" our 12 inch Newtonian onto this most wonderful of stellar nurseries.

I lay in bed for maybe another ten minutes... I couldn't take it anymore, I had to go outside and start observing. 

Helen woke up about the same time, and was also eager to catch a glimpse of Orion's splendid star nursery.

Oscar & Mark

This morning's seeing was between Antoniadi II and III... best conditions for a long while.

Also the outside temperature was ideal for light clothing, and not a cloud to spoil the view.  

Within the next hour Helen and I managed to view the Orion nebula, the Crab nebula, Praesepe the beehive, all three star clusters (M36, M37, M38) in Auriga the Charioteer, plus Rigel and that brightest of star... Sirius.  

Also on the list was the Andromeda Galaxy M31, along with its companion galaxy M32.

Interestingly before the advent of large telescopes, the Andromeda galaxy was thought to be a nebula.!
I would have added M97 and M108 to the list, but Dave and Billa's house blocked the view!
The Orion nebula M42 deserves a further mention as it was the first time that Oscar had been let loose on this most splendid of winter objects.

Many astronomers see a faint greenish tinge to the nebula. Others mention a slight bluish tinge.
To my eyes the ethereal glow of the nebula was bluish grey.  

Surprisingly at the edges of the nebula I could just make out a tiny reddish tint..!

Did I see this colour or not..? Helen had a good look and also noted a slightly reddish tint. 

Preasepe the beehive (Messier 44)  was impressive. 

The Pleiades/M45 or "Seven sisters" turned into several dozen sisters through the 30mm ocular!

Sirius was bright to the point of being painful.
If you slightly defocus Sirius you will see a wonderful kaleidoscope of twinkling colour.  

With the 10mm eyepiece double star Rigel revealed its tiny blue companion really well.

Oscar put on a good show this morning, hopefully the first of many this season.

Clear Skies

Mark & Helen.

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