Skies By Africa

Images of the Heavens By Eric Africa

IC 426, Reflection Nebula in Orion

IC 426
Located about 1 degree north of Epsilon Orionis (the middle star of Orion's belt) lies this interesting little reflection nebula, IC 426, also cataloged as LBN 921, located at RA 05h 36m 30s Declination -00°18'. I stumbled upon this object when I was looking for other targets in the vicinity (IC 423 and IC 424). I bypassed those targets for want of a suitable guide star for the equipment I was using. In IC 426's case, not only was there a suitable guide star, but the nebula itself is pretty interesting!

I don't see much written about this nebula other than that it is a bright reflection nebula. There are also very few amateur images of this object, which raised my interest in it. Being a reflection nebula, it is not shining from atoms excited by radiation from nearby stars. Rather, it is reflecting light from the stars around it. And much like our Earth's atmosphere scatters blue light, making our sky blue, this nebula shows off a distinct bluish hue.

There are also few professional images of this object, among them this one taken by a professional telescope at Mauna Kea.

As the write-up in that web site says, this cloud of gas and dust boasts a concentration of 10 billion molecules per cubic meter, which is still one trillionth the density of Earth's atmosphere. Still, the density of this cloud is high enough that with enough of a push from some future supernova or other external force, stars could be born within it some day.

The quaint extension streaming from the nebula reminds me a bit of a caricature of Jimmy "The Schnozzola" Durante. So as a tribute to the man, I say "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are!"
Constellation: Orion
When Visible: December - April
Distance: 1,500 Light-years
Date:  December 10, 2009 - December 17, 2009
Location: New Mexico Skies, Mayhill, NM
Exposure Details:
L: 24 x 15 Minutes Binned 1x1
R: 13 x 15 Minutes Binned 1x1
G: 13 x 15 Minutes Binned 1x1
B: 13 x 15 Minutes Binned 1x1
Equipment Used: 10" RCOS Ritchey-Cretien on a Paramount ME. SBIG ST-10XME with 5-position filter wheel  and Astrodon HaLRGB filters. AO-8 adaptive optics unit. Guided using the camera's built-in guide chip and AO-8 unit.
Acquisition Software: MaximDL, TheSky6, ACP
Processing Software: MaximDL, Photoshop CS, IrFanView, Noel Carboni Actions