This is the Flame Nebula, found near the easternmost star in the belt of Orion, Alnitak. Alnitak is a supergiant star, glowing 35,000 times greater than the Sun, with a mass 20 times that of the Sun. The Flame Nebula is an emission nebula, also known as an ionization nebula found near hot stars. Bennet et al. (2012) describes these types of nebulas as, "colorful, wispy blobs of glowing gas." These types of nebulas are active in star formation and get their glow from the nearby star heating up the electrons and allowing them to emit light as they cool, going back to lower energy levels. The Flame Nebula is part of the complex of gas that contains the Horsehead Nebula which is 1,500 light years away. It was discovered by Wilhelm Herschel in 1786.
In this photo we can clearly see the light rays coming from immensely bright, Alnitak on the right and streaming across a greater portion of the Flame Nebula. Alnitak is 20,000 times brighter that the brightest star in this photo, thus the reason we see the rays scattered across the Flame Nebula. The glow from the ionization occurring is also evident throughout the nebula. The fact that the cloud of gases has a pinkish tint tells us that there is hydrogen included. Through the middle of the nebula there is a dark section as a result of dark gases and dust floating in front of the nebula. The distance to this object is estimated to 1,500 light years away (Wikipedia); we find a maximum angular size of 22.68 arcminutes, which corresponds to a linear size of 9.9 lightyears.
Bennett, Jeffrey, Megan Donahue, Nicholas Schneider, and Mark Voit. The Essential Cosmic Perspective. 6th ed. San Francisco: Addison-Wesley, 2012. 156-158. Print.
De Martin, Davide. "SkyFactory." skyfactory.org. Web. 19 April. 2011. <http://www.skyfactory.org/ngc2024/ngc2024.htm>
"Wikipedia." wikipedia.org. Web. 19 April. 2011. <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flame_Nebula>
|Right Ascension (J2000)||05:41:54|
|Filters used||B (Blue), C (Clear), R (Red), V (Green)|
|Exposure time per filter||B, V, R, and C (60s x 5)|
|Date observed||March 24, 2011 UT|