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Orion's Belt

Orion is the master of the winter skies. He lords over the heavens from late fall to early spring, with his hunting dog Sirius trailing at his feet.
The constellation's main feature is of course the three stars which form the "belt" across the middle of Orion: from west to east Mintaka, Alnilam, and Alnitak. Even the Bible makes reference to this famous group.
The last of these stars is also known as zeta Orionis, and is a well known triple star system. The primary is a blue-white star, and its companion (165, 2.3") is a dull red. Close by, just to the south, is the renowned Horsehead Nebula, a so-called dark nebula that is not visible in scopes but quite spectacular in long-exposure photographs.
Alnitak is also responsible for another great feature in this region. Infact, excites the hot gases in NGC 2024 (Flame Nebula) causing it to glow in almost unique and beautiful colours, predominantly shell-pink, but ranging from yellow to deep orange. The dark central area is caused by a lane of dust in the foreground.

Chosen as NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day for October 13, 2005 and December 29, 2006

This image is a composite from black and white images taken with the Palomar Observatory's 48-inch (1.2-meter) Samuel Oschin Telescope as a part of the second National Geographic Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS II). The images were recorded on two type of glass photographic plates - one sensitive to red light and the other to blue and later they were digitized. Credit: Caltech, Palomar Observatory, Digitized Sky Survey.

In order to produce the color image seen here, I worked with data coming from 4 different photographic plates taken between 1987 and 1991. Original file is 15.919 x 12.650 pixels with a resolution of about 1 arcsec per pixel. The image shows an area of sky large 4,4 x 3,5 (for comparison, the full-Moon is about 0,5 in diameter). Color composite, copyright: Davide De Martin.

Available for Museum, Planetariums, Publishers and Authors in very high-resolution (201 megapixels). Please, e-mail me with your request.


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All images presented in this website are copyrighted Davide De Martin (2005-2014) otherwise noted. Reproduction or distribution of these images is not permitted without written consent. See also my policy of the use of images for further details or email me. Comments are welcome.
The astronomical images presented in this site were created with the help of the ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator.