IC 434 Emission Nebula


Approximately 1,600 light years away toward the constellation Orion is a vast emission nebula known as IC 434. It is located just south of Alnitak, the bright left-most star in Orion's belt. This red glowing gas displays an intricate pattern of clouds and streamers, and part of it is obscured by the famous Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33), a dark region of dust and non-luminous gas. The image was exposed through a hydrogen-alpha filter to emphasize the nebula's details.

This two-frame mosaic captures the Horsehead and its extensive nebulosity. North is toward the left. Alnitak, being so close – just beyond the left edge of the photo about one-third of the height from the bottom – can create glare streaks in the image. In this case, the well-baffled TMB-130 telescope proved its worth. There's no glare at all. See the composite image below to get an idea how close Alnitak is to this frame.

TMB-130SS APO refractor at f/7 on an Astro-Physics 1200 equatorial mount
SBIG ST-8XM camera
SBIG CFW-10 filter wheel with Astrodon filters
Guiding: 60mm f/5 refractor and ST-402 camera
Imaging and autoguiding with MaxIm DL 4.62
Exposure Hydrogen-alpha: 3 hours (12 x 15 min.) unbinned @ -35°C, each half
Processing Dark and flat frame reduction in CCDStack
SD-combined in CCDStack
Further processing in Photoshop CS
Date and Location 7 December 2008 (happy birthday, Mike!) & 21 December 2008
Montpelier, VA    N 37° 49' 12", W 77° 42' 06"

This composite of the Horsehead and nearby Flame Nebula shows just how close Alnitak (blue circle) is located.