Russell Croman Astrophotography  



Reflection Nebula M78

About This Photograph

In a vast molecular cloud 1600 light years away in the constellation of Orion we find the stellar nursery and associated nebula known as M78. Huge voids are being carved out of the cloud by the wind and radiation from brilliant blue newborn stars. In time, most of the gas and dust making up the nebula will be blown off into space, leaving behind a cluster of young stars.

It is a rare thing to witness the actual birth of a star, but early last year amateur astronomer Jay McNeil did just that. While taking a photograph, he noticed a curious addition to an area he was already familiar with, seen here as a small somewhat comet-shaped nebula in the upper-left of the photograph. This ghostly apparition wasn't there two years ago. McNeil reported his find to professional astronomers whose further observations confirmed that it is indeed a young star just springing to life.

Click here for an annotated photograph.


Technical Details

Optics:20" f/8 RCOS Ritchey-Chrétien Cassegrain w/ Field Corrector
Camera:SBIG STL-11000M
Mount:Software Bisque Paramount ME
Filters:SBIG Standard RGB.
Dates/Times:2-3 February 2005
Location:Dimension Point Observatory, Mayhill, New Mexico
Exposure Details:LRGB = 150:45:30:45 minutes (15-minute individual exposures)
Acquisition:MaxIm DL/CCD 4, TheSky6, CCDAutoPilot2.
Processing:MaxIm DL/CCD 4, Photoshop CS2