Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Colorful Orion Nebula


I’m pretty proud of this one. In a previous post I showed off the grayscale luminance image taken remotely by a LightBuckets observatory in Rodeo, New Mexico on January 3, 2011. To get color, I needed images of the same nebula taken through red, blue, and green filters, and it took me until January 27 to get this done. Although the color-filtered images are also grayscale, through the magic of image processing software they produce the colors you see in this image.

Orion Nebula

Although this nebula is barely visible to the naked eye (it is the middle “star” in the sword of Orion) it will show only a hint of color at best. The human eye needs brightness to see color well. The telescope is much more sensitive to light and color than your eyeball and can portray the colors of visible light that have traveled 1,344 years to arrive here. Looked at another way, this is the way Orion looked on a January night in the year 667. Time travel it is, and this celestial object is one of the closer ones.

Why these particular colors? The red hues are caused by “Hydrogen-Alpha recombination line radiation.” If you have ever been exposed to a laboratory spectrometer you will know what that means. If not, just chalk it up to the element hydrogen. The blue-violet is reflected radiation from the massive stars at the core of the nebula. There also is some green in there from doubly ionized oxygen.

The telescope used was a Newtonian Astrograph, aperture 200mm, focal length 720mm, f/3.6. The exposures for luminance, red, green, and blue were 60, 15, 15, and 15 minutes, respectively. The processing software used was CCDStack 2 and Photoshop CS3. I used Sky Tools 3 Pro to schedule and plan the imaging sessions.

Dave, which he is just getting warmed up.


9 Responses to “Colorful Orion Nebula”
  1. Tom says:

    WOW! I am impressed. It turned out beautifully! And of course I understood every word you said! NOT! I may even want to try painting this with the operative word ‘may’. Looking forward to many more.

  2. Linda says:

    Of course I knew those red hues are from Hydrogen-Alpha recombination line radiation. Uh, well, I do like red. That’s an amazing picture.. I wondered what you were up to. Wish I could watch what you’re actually doing with your software, I have absolutely no clue! Thanks for sharing! And Uncle Tom… if you ever paint this, I’d love to see it! Where’s your blog? We need to see what you’re up to!

  3. Dave says:

    Hydrogens are red and reflections are blue,
    (add the next line here)

    Be my Valentine.

    Dad, losing it.

  4. leslie says:

    Amazing! I’m not sure I fully understand what I’m seeing…a peak at the stars in the year 667. So time travel really is possible…at least for seeing stars from back in the day. Very colorful and cool! Double wow.

    Hydrogens are red, reflections are blue…
    Newtonian Astrograph, you see so true!

  5. Leslie says:

    Peek. Not peak. why can’t the iPad spell checker read my mind?

  6. Dave says:

    Okay, Linda, what’s the next line? Then we will turn it over to Laura to complete. And if there any lurkers out there wondering, this is not restricted to family, so div e in.

  7. Linda says:

    Amazing sight in the celestial stew.

  8. Dave says:

    Hydrogens are red, reflections are blue…
    Newtonian Astrograph, you see so true!
    Amazing sight in the celestial stew.

    Whadaya think, Leslie? Do you approve?

  9. Tom says:

    Linda…I accept the challenge to try and paint Dave’s Orion Nebula. Don’t hold your breath and remember that artist have what’s called “artist’s license” to alter as they see fit! Hmmm how am I going to do this now,,,,,Dave..see what you started?
    As for the blog….maybe some day. Ask your Dad to send the one I did in a recent class. Took me all of 2 hours!

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