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updated : sat 14 sep 2002 1:08am bst
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The Great Nebula in Orion, M42

Sometimes you just have to stop tinkering, and look.

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. 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!

'... stop tinkering'? OK, I lied a bit: 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.

We just like looking at it.


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