Sunday 18 January 2015

A magic night reveals the full glory of a celestial giant

I was not expecting to be able to get to my customary dark site this month.  And as chance would have it, the day that would have been best for such a sojourn was a splendid one.  Yet the hero of the moment is my beautiful wife.  I mentioned to her that morning that this evening promised to be a spectacular one up at the Mountians.  The very next thing she says to me is:  “So why don’t you go.” !!!  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

The two hour road trip gave hints to the quality of the evening ahead.  It is currently the middle of the Australian summer.  Normally a hot and humid Sydney day like this day sees dreadful heat haze and poor transparency.  Yet this day was the clearest I can remember!  As I approached the Airfield, Venus and Mercury greeted me on the western horizon.  When I arrived at the Airfield, the quality of the night was set in concrete when my companions and myself witnessed Mercury set with just the slightest twinkle.  Best of all, we also saw Mercury flutter its final night’s light through the very distant trees.  A truly marvellous sight.

The transparency of the night was the best I can remember.  While seeing was challenged to a maximum of 150X.  Yet by keeping magnification down, with the extraordinary transparency, the quality of the image thrown up was just exquisite.

There was one main prize for the night, the celestial giant M42.  I’ve sketched M42 on several occasions, but never from a dark site.  And this night’s special conditions revealed more detail, subtlety, and extension of nebulosity than I have seen previously.  After two hours I was beginning to think to myself “Good grief!  When is this going to stop!”.

One of my favourite parts of this nebula is M42’s little companion M43.  Its somewhat spiral shape, and faint streamers of material connecting the two is a delight to see and a challenge to depict.

This piece has been a most satisfying one.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Object:  The Great Orion Nebula, M42 & M43
Scope:  17.5” Karee push-pull dob
Gear:  30mm 82° Explore Scientific , 67X, OIII filter
Date:  18th January, 2015

Location:  Katoomba Airfield, Australia.

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