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Orion Nebula

M42, the Great Nebula in Orion, seen from Portugal in Nov 2001


M42 [Portugal, 20 Nov 2001; Olympus OM1]

This photograph, taken in November 2001 during our stay at COAA in the Algarve, is a time exposure of the Great Nebula in Orion taken through the 0.5m reflecting telescope there. Our holiday was worth it for this photograph alone.

The camera (our Olympus OM-1) was directly attached to the telescope, with no eyepiece or lens, using a T-ring adapter. This is called prime focus photography, and the telescope becomes effectively an enormous telephoto lens.

The film was Fuji Super G 1600, and the exposure was 10 minutes. A very long ten minutes -- Chris was squatting on the floor guiding the 'scope with a little remote-control gadget, trying desperately to keep a faint star exactly in the centre of a crosshair target. This was the second try, too -- the first attempt went pear-shaped at 9 minutes when the drive jammed, leaving little trails over the resulting picture. Then there was the shot Chris spent 15 minutes guiding only to discover the camera was set up for a 1/50 second exposure.... Warm thanks to Bev (who runs COAA with his wife Jan) for his patience in putting up with this!

The image has been slightly tweaked, with a small saturation boost and gamma adjustment. But the original (this is scanned from a print) doesn't really need any work.

COAA (Centro de Observação Astronómica) is an observatory / guesthouse in the Algarve, Portugal, with facilities for holidaying amateurs to use all the very impressive facilities -- a number of telescopes, computers, CCD cameras and much more, with help and guidance in using them. Run by an English couple, Dr Bev Ewen-Smith and his wife Jan, the cost is extremely reasonable -- about the same per night as a medium hotel, plus all the observatory facilites (and home cooking). Visit their web site at, where you can see many more examples of photographs taken there.

Image details

Photographer: Chris
Taken: COAA, Algarve, Portugal, 11pm 20 Nov 2001
Original format: Scanned from a print
Camera: Olympus OM1
Exposure: 10min * ISO1600 * f4.5
Focal length: ?
Photodesk processing: Gamma; saturation; scaled

© 2003 Lee Montgomerie / Chris Terran
All images are copyright and may not be reproduced without permission

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