Several Lowbrows and I had planned on going to northern Michigan this weekend (9/23/2011) for some stargazing. Alas, the forecasts turned from clear-skies to clouds and rain at the last minute, so we cancelled our trip.
So I used the time to put some final touches on a set of images I took at Peach Mountain on Sept 1. The attached result is of M16, the Eagle Nebula.
The Eagle Nebula is a bright (magnitude 8.2) object found in the constellation Serpens. It consists of a young open cluster of stars and a diffuse emission (H II) nebula. The nebula is about 6500 light-years away. The area is best known from an image taken by the Hubble Telescope of a small region within the nebula known as the “Pillars of Creation.” You should find this feature slightly left and below the center of the image.
I personally find this area interesting because, like the Orion Nebula (M42), M16 is a star-forming region. Stars form here from the collapse of the gas cloud due to gravity. But a new star also creates stellar winds which blows leftover gas away and compresses it in other areas of the nebula, allowing additional stars to form. The creation of stars also lights the gas, allowing us to see it. Dust and other material create the dark areas seen in the nebula. But you better look now! Per Wikipedia, scientists using the Spitzer telescope found evidence in 2007 that a supernova may have destroyed the pillars about 6000 years ago (the light showing the new shape wont get here for another 500 to 1000 years).
This image was taking using an unmodified Canon 30D DSLR camera. No filters were used with my 14.5” F4.3 StarMaster telescope. The image consists of 51 separate light frames, each 40 seconds long at ISO-1250, which were combined (stacked) using Deep Sky Stacker software. Final processing was done in Photoshop CS4.
I also would like to take the opportunity to thank Clay Kessler for some image-processing hints he gave me during the Kensington Astronomy-at-the-Beach Star Party. The final image is much nicer thanks to his advise on handling the stars.
Please let me know what you think, and especially if you have any thoughts on how I might improve on the image.