More Color with the Cat

November 2, 2019 - Reading time: 2 minutes

This was an especially busy week at work, a lot going on all around, including my son with an especially bad cold that developed into pneumonia--he spent the week recovering, so it was nice to be able to relax on a Friday night with clear skies, and schedule a somewhat unplanned and wayward imaging run across the autumn night sky. Two of the targets I focused on were M45, the Pleiades, and the M78 reflection nebula in Orion. I was trying out 8-minute exposures with both of these, and they both turned out well. It's always nice to have an early setting moon--or new moon where I can use my ZWO ASI071MC cooled color camera with a normal UV/IR cut filter, and not have to plan around our star's light reflecting off our disproportionately large moon. I shot the following stacked and processed sub-exposures with the William Optics SpaceCat 51 APO Refractor, ZWO ASI071MC camera, on an iOptron CEM25P mount, with 28 x 480 and 600 second subs for M45, and 27 x 240 second subs for M78.

The constellation Orion holds a special place in my astronomy-shaped heart, from Barnard's Loop (Sh 2-276) to the Witch's Head (IC 2118) across from Rigel, to the pair of stars at Orion's shoulders, Betelgeuse and Bellatrix, and of course, M42 the Orion Nebula, which we really should continue to call the "Great Orion Nebula" because, well, it's great and arguably magnificent. Among all of Orion's well studied and photographed nebulae is another favorite, the mysterious Messier 78 (M78), an almost violently colored and shaped reflection nebula coiled in dark clouds of interstellar dust that makes it look like it's poised to attack Barnard's Loop. (What is "astronomy-shaped" you ask? Probably something like a refractor telescope shape, or possibly like the stacks of money I have spent on telescopes, cameras, mounts, and other equipment).