An Early Christmas Present

After weeks of cloud, rain and wind, months of the rudy stuff actually – the sky cleared just after midnight on Christmas eve, ten minutes into Christmas day the roof on the observatory rolled back once again, the telescope was set up and aligned, the ZWO asi1600mm Pro camera was cooled to -20°C, the Flame nebula in Orion was targeted and imaging was begun. I captured 15 x 300 second exposures through the Ha filter of NGC2024, this star forming region is about 1300 – 1400 light years away and lies close to the star Alnitak – the easternmost of the three stars in Orions belt, it shines energetic Ultraviolet light into the Flame and this knocks electrons away from the huge clouds of Hydrogen gas that reside there. when these electrons recombine with the Ionised gas the clouds glow in Ha light.

NGC2024 Flame Nebula Ha
NGC2024 Flame Nebula Ha

Then as the Flame got too low ( no pun intended ) in the sky to image any longer, I swung onto NGC2264, the Christmas tree cluster in Monoceros, well why not, it’s Christmas. This star forming region and emission nebula lie about 2700 light years from us, the NGC2264 designation refers to the star cluster and the nebulosity including the Cone Nebula and the Fox Fur Nebula, again I captured 15 or so 300 second exposures through the Ha filter.

NGC2264 Christmas Tree Cluster Ha
NGC2264 Christmas Tree Cluster Ha

Then for something completely different, Imaging M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy in Ha, This galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear and is located at the imaginary top point of an equilateral triangle with the stars Alkaid and Mizar, it is a face on spiral galaxy at a distance of 21 Million light years from us and has a large number of H II regions, many of which are very large and bright. H II regions usually accompany the enormous clouds of high density molecular hydrogen gas contracting under their own gravitational force where stars form, H II regions are ionized by extremely bright and hot young stars, hense imaging it through the Ha filter, I had to increase the exposure time to 600 seconds, so only managed to capture 8 images before it started to get too light, but you can see clearly the H II regions.

The forcast is again not good for the coming week, but boy was it good to have a proper imaging session once again, not just the odd hour or so…… Wishing you Clear Skies, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

2 thoughts on “An Early Christmas Present”

  1. Very nice detail, particularly in the two nebulae images. You have to be alert for opportunities and take them when you can, even if it means starting after midnight!
    I hope more opportunities come your way.


  2. Really glad you managed to catch that one clear slot of the last few weeks! Great work. Poor old kit must have got a shock being put to work after all this time. Doesn’t look like you were too rusty either! lol
    Best wishes for a much clearer New Year. All the best.


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