Cold nights under Orion, the Hunter - Part I: The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae

Orion is a prominent constellation visible in the winter evening sky from the Northern Hemisphere. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations. The distinctive pattern of Orion has been recognized in numerous cultures around the world, and many myths have been associated with it. It has also been used as a symbol in the modern world.

Orion's current name derives from Greek mythology, in which Orion was a gigantic, supernaturally strong hunter of ancient times, born to Euryale, a Gorgon, and Poseidon (Neptune), god of the sea in the Graeco-Roman tradition.

In old Hungarian tradition, "Orion" is known as (magic) Archer (Íjász), or Reaper (Kaszás). In recently rediscovered myths he is called Nimrod (Hungarian "Nimród"), the greatest hunter, father of the twins "Hunor" and "Magor".

The Constellation "Orion". The name of the major stars are labelled as well as the most notable deep sky objects located within the Constellation. The red square shows the position of the depicted area on the astrophoto.

The Horsehead, Flame Nabulae and Co.

The Horsehead Nebula is a dark nebula in the constellation Orion. The nebula is located just to the south of the star Alnitak, which is farthest east on Orion's Belt, and is part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The nebula was first recorded in 1888 by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming on photographic plate B2312 taken at the Harvard College Observatory. The Horsehead Nebula is approximately 1500 light years from Earth. It is one of the most identifiable nebulae because of the shape of its swirling cloud of dark dust and gases, which bears some resemblance to a horse's head when viewed from Earth.

IC 434 is a bright emission nebula. It was discovered on February 1, 1786 by William Herschel. The Horsehead Nebula is a dark nebula silhouetted against it.

The Flame Nebula, designated as NGC 2024, is an emission nebula. It is about 900 to 1,500 light-years away from Earth. The Flame Nebula is also a part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex.

NGC 2023 is also an emission and reflection nebula at a distance of 1467 light years from Earth. It is 4 light years in diameter making it one of the largest reflection nebulae ever discovered. It is illuminated by the B1.5 star HD 37903, the most luminous member of the stars in the Lynds 1630 molecular cloud.

The IC 431, 432 and 435 are smaller reflexions nebulae.

The Image

The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae are one of the most popular deep sky objects among the astrophotographers. From the Norther Hemisphere they could be captured only in winter time. This means on a clear skied night of course a very very cold temperature during the shooting.... This condition is perfect for the DSLR-Camera sensor but not for the dedicated astrophotographer itself.

On the 30th of December 2016 after a busy night in the hospital I could prepare everything for the shooting. As it was mentioned in the previous blog article I could set up a remote shooting system and therefore I didn't have to stay during the whole shooting outside in the cold weather. Not so my unlucky telescope...

The telescope around midnight (-10 degrees Celsius)

Image Data

30x5min, ISO 800


Altair Astro 200/800 imaging newtonian telescope

Skywatcher NEQ-6 GOTO mount

Canon 700D mod

Baader MPCC MkIII image flattener

Astronomik CLS-CCD light pollution clip-filter

60/240 guiderscope

Orion StarShoot Autoguider camera


PHD2 Guiding for autoguiding

ASCOM - Stellarium for telescope control

Nebulosity and Photoshop CS6 for image processing



Made and designed by ATELIER KURUCZ in 2018