M78 From The Flint Hills

New image: M78 Reflection Nebula in Orion

I wrote a few weeks ago about my last trip to the Flint Hills and here is the final result. I am amazed at the detail in and around M78. The complexity of this area was apparent when I first started processing the image. The whole area is awash with dust and glowing gas, click the image to see . The upper right corner of the photograph contains a small piece of Barnards loop, which is visible in my old film photo of Orion (I really need to get some newer wide angle shots online!).

Honestly I am not completely pleased with my final image. I think there is room for improvement after looking at my M45 and B33, especially in reducing the noise level. I stretched this image as much as possible to highlight the intricacies of the region which tended to bring up the noise level. I also had to discard nine sub-exposures that were noticeably worse than the majority for one reason or another. Resizing the image from the full size composition (2066 x 3224 pixels) seems to highlight an old problem: banding noise. In retrospect I was not dithering as well as I could have either night. I’m my own worst critic.

To get it where I want it this image will require more sub-exposures. Time is running out for the winter constellations so perhaps later this year.

Incidentally I have updated my online images of M45. I noticed the other day that the images here were several revisions behind what I had on my computer. Fixed.

2 Replies to “M78 From The Flint Hills”

  1. I am a Kansas resident who would like to take a trip to the Flint Hills to see the Milky Way (specifically to see the Milky Way). I ran across your post when I did a google search. I was wondering if you could tell me the best place to be (and perhaps time of the year) to best see the Milky Way.

  2. Hello Julien,

    The answer somewhat depends on how late you like to stay up. The milkyway is spectacular in summer and would be best seen before midnight starting in July.

    As the Flint Hills is a large area stretching from north of El Dorado to Topeka there are many possible places to go. I would suggest somewhere to the west of Emporia. My usual location is at Tetters Rock which is east of Cassoday (south-south west of Emporia). There are several dark sky spots located between Topeka and Emporia as well. One such spot is operated by the club Northeast Kansas Amateur Astronomers’ League. Visit there website for information!

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