Tarantulas in Space / by Conor Cunningham

NGC 2070, aka the Tarantula Nebula

It's been a while since I posted something spacey, so a couple of weekends ago whilst out with one of my astronomy clubs, I set about programming a remote telescope to take a picture of NGC 2070, otherwise know as the Tarantula nebula. To do this well, one needs a good telescope, a highly accurate tracking mount (to counter the Earth's rotation) and a nice camera. In this case the setup cost somewhere upwards of 80 000 USD and needless to say, I don't have that burning a hole in my pocket so I rent such a beast through iTelescope.net.

Enough of the rambling. The image comprises of 30 images, each five minutes of exposure. The camera is monochrome and 12 of the images are capturing 'white' light, six were capturing blue light, 3 for red light and 3 for green light.

The images are then stacked together to form master luminance, red, green and blue images, which are eventually all combined together into the relevant luminance and colour channels and then processed using advanced imaging techniques in software such as Pixinsight and Photoshop.

The Tarantula nebula is, as best I understand it, an area of star birth where gas and dust fall together under their gravity and eventually, fusion starts. It's about 160 000 light years away, but if it were as close as say Orion's Nebula, it would cast shadows on the night side of Earth! Bloody wow!

So after many hours of work, the above image was the result. I hope you like it!