The above image of the Sword of Orion is a collaborative project between my friend John Love of Sanger, Texas and myself. John captured the image from his back yard and performed the initial processing consisting of calibration using darks and flats, debayering to color in MaxIm DL Essentials and combining the sub-exposures in Astro-Art. I performed the final processing using CCDStack and Photoshop CS2.
The Sword of Orion is located in the well-known winter constellation of Orion the Hunter. The sword is located below the three bright stars comprising Orionís belt. The sword is fainter than the belt stars but can be seen visually in most light polluted suburban skies as 3 dim stars. The middle, somewhat fuzzy, star is the location of the famous Great Orion Nebula (M42). This nebula is readily visible in small telescopes and even can be viewed using binoculars under moderately dark skies. The upper star consists of a cluster of stars surrounded by a blue reflection nebula and is known as the Running Man Nebula (NGC 1977). The lower, or bottom, star is Iota Orionis and is surrounded by very faint nebulosity. The Great Orion Nebula is a very large emission nebula that is the nursery for many newly formed stars. These stars are very energetic and their intense radiation is exciting the surround gas to radiate the beautiful, predominantly red, color of this remarkable celestial vista.