The Horsehead Nebula

The Horsehead Nebula
All Images Copyright Steve Cannistra

Please click here for a labeled version.
Please click here for a medium-size view (40%).

Position Angle:  85 degrees
RA: 05h 42m 48s (J2000)
Dec: - (minus) 01 degrees 21' 25" (J2000)

This is one of the most interesting regions of the night sky, containing 3 different types of nebulae:  emission, reflection, and dark.  The Horsehead Nebula itself, also known as Barnard 33 (B33), is part of an enormous dust cloud that extends to the left and downward in this photo, obscuring light from behind (notice the relative lack of stars in the lower half of the image).  Red light from IC434, the large emission nebula coursing diagonally through the field, is partially obscured by the Horsehead itself.  IC434 is actually part of a large gasseous region in Orion, extending towards and involving the Great Orion Nebula (M42).  To the upper right of the Horsehead at 1 o'clock is the bright star Sigma Orionis, which is responsible for producing the UV radiation that excites hydrogen atoms in IC434 to emit in the red.  To the left of the Horsehead is the large Flame Nebula, aka NGC2024 or Orion B.  This is also an emission nebula, although the stars reponsible for its glow are buried deep inside and are not visible.  Notice the dark lanes or "veins" within the Flame, which are thought to represent an extension of the same dark nebula responsible for creating the Horsehead.  The bright star located just above the Flame Nebula is Alnitak, aka Zeta Orionis.  Alnitak forms the left hand portion of Orion's belt and is much closer to us than either the Horsehead, IC434, or NGC2024 (and it is therefore not responsible for illuminating any of the other objects in the field).  Finally, there are several beautiful blue reflection nebulae in this image, visible because they are in the foreground of the dark nebula itself. These reflection nebulae include IC435, NGC2023, IC432, and IC431 (click here for an image with labels).  M78 is also captured in this widefield image, located in the lower left hand corner. 

Photographic Details:
Dates of image acquistion:  January 6, 7, and 8, 2021
Scope:  Takahashi FSQ106 at f5 on the Takahashi NJP Mount
Autoguider:  SBIG ST-402 with 60mm guidescope, focal length 227mm
Camera:  Apogee U16M at -20C, with 7 position 50mm square filter wheel (Apogee FW50-7S)
Filters:  Baader Ha, Baader RGB filters
Exposures:  Total exposure 17 hours
Post-processing:  Calibrated, aligned and stacked in Maxim, followed by DDP in ImagesPlus (IP).  Further processing in Photoshop CS (16 bit format)

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