The Orion Nebula, M42 and M43
AAO image reference AAT 19.     « Previous || Next »

The Great Orion Nebula, M42 and M43, NGC 1976 orion_nebula.jpg, M42.jpg)
Top left is NE. Image width is about 32 arc min
Image and text © 1979-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.

The Orion Nebula is famous for a number of reasons. It is the nearest bright nebula to us and can be seen with the naked eye. Its brightness led to it being the first nebula ever photographed (in 1882) and its proximity (1350 light years) means that we know more about it than any other star-forming region. It is also in a very active stage of star formation and it is perfectly placed for us to explore the intimate details of the birth of stars.

The inner regions are glowing mainly in the red light of excited hydrogen, which together with some green emission from oxygen give the centre of the nebula a yellowish colour. The energy for this spectacular display comes from the small cluster of stars in the brightest part of the nebula. Three, five-minute exposures were used to make this picture using glass plates sensitive to blue, red and green light, taken with the Anglo-Australian Telescope. A series of unsharp masks (one for each plate) was used during the copying stage, to produce three black and white film positives. The colour image above was made from these derivatives using an additive process in the darkroom.

Related Images
AAT 19a. The Orion nebula (wider field)
AAT 19b. The Orion nebula (no unsharp mask)
AAT 19c.  M43, with part of M42
AAT 29.   The Trapezium stars in Orion
UKS 8.    The Great Nebula in Orion
UKS 23.   Faint nebulosity near Orion and Horsehead Nebulae
Constellation of Orion (external site)

For details of photographic exposure, search technical table by AAT reference number.

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Updated by David Malin, 2011, October 3