The Horsehead Nebula is a difficult object for purely visual observation, and I have never managed to actually see it. But amateur astronomy has advanced tremendously over the 30 years since my first telescope, especially astrophotography. This photo only shows the faintest blurry image of the Horsehead, but, as you can verify from the screenshot below, it’s the real deal!
Below is a view from Stellarium (free planetarium software) of the same area. I’ve rotated and scaled the image to match the photo.
Interestingly, an inch or so to the left of the star Alnitak below is another fairly bright orange star. It is much dimmer in the photograph above than in the graphic below. It is, in fact, the variable star V1197 Ori. Apparently I caught it on a lower brightness phase.
Original color image — 15 second exposure at ISO 3200, 61mm Radian Raptor telescope, motorized mount, and an Olympus 4/3 camera:
The typical weather pattern lately has been very clear days with clouds rolling in at night. I was going to take a bunch of 15 second exposures and try stacking them, but I only got 4 before the view was obliterated. I may try stacking them later, just to see if there is any improvement, but no matter — this is pretty good for a 15 second exposure with a very small telescope.
As astronomical telescopes go, it’s pretty small: a Celestron NexStar 5 SE. If the seeing is extremely good, I can see the rings of Saturn with it. Unfortunately, where I live the seeing is almost never very good. I tried my best to get pictures of Jupiter and Saturn as they danced close to each other.
December 21 was the night of closest approach. Unfortunately the air wasn’t very clear; drifting clouds sometimes blocked the view entirely.
On December 22 I tried again:
In passing I sometimes tried to get pictures of the Andromeda Galaxy, but I had difficulty with the targeting:
In my previous post I said that Mars actually appeared as a tiny sphere. Here is a much enlarged portion of that image — it’s not much to look at, but I’m tickled that it doesn’t appear to just be a diffraction pattern from a point source of light…