December 2020 - Picture of the Month
Barnard’s Loop (Sh 2-276) in Orion
I've chosen to look at the winter sky with a wide view this month. I make it just under 14 degrees across covering much of the body of the Hunter. If you take the time to zoom in on the large image on Don's website, and I suggest you do, you'll find that it's packed with nebulae of all kinds.
We have dark nebula LDN 1622 on the left of this image, and passing through the M78 to the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) we can see the Horsehead nebula (Barnard 33) clearly visible against NGC 2023 in the centre of the field with Orion's belt stars are arrayed nearly vertically. And just in case you were dazzled by this light show, still moving to the right we find NGC 1977 and the pairing of M42 and M42 providing another beacon of star formation.
However for me the main feature is that rift of dust and light that runs from top to bottom on the left, and then curving back around into the bottom right corner of the image. This is Barnard's Loop that forms a bubble around the vigorous star forming regions I've just mentioned in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. Frankly I'm amazed at the extent of the structure in the dust that is captured across the whole image.
I'd love to be able to observe Barnard's Loop, even the brighter sections, with binoculars. But that's not likely so these hydrogen-alpha images are next best thing in my opinion. Fortunately you can visually observe many of the other objects captured here and clearly it's an astrophotographers dream.
James Whinfrey - Website Administrator.