An out-of-this-world picture for coast’s amateur astronomer

Amateur astronomer David Allonby's picture of the Orion nebula from Poulton
Amateur astronomer David Allonby's picture of the Orion nebula from Poulton

This stunning picture of the Orion Nebula is truly out of this world – but was taken much closer to home in Poulton.

Amateur astronomer David Allonby, 37, captured the image by taking a series of photographs through his telescope on a clear night last week. David, a computer programmer, said: “The photograph is of the Orion Nebula, which, to the naked eye at least, just appears to be one of the ‘stars’ below Orion’s belt which is currently low in the Southern Eastern evening sky.

“Through binoculars you can begin to see that it’s certainly not just a star but rather a huge cloud of swirling gas and stellar dust located a mere 8,000,000,000,000,000 miles (eight thousand trillion miles, or 1,400 light years) away from Earth.

“Stepping up to use a telescope you can begin to see the structure of the nebula, inside of which the gasses are collapsing together and then merging to begin the process of forming new stars – this Nebula is actually the closest of these ‘star formation areas’ to us.”

“For this image, which I took from my back garden in Poulton on a nice clear night last week, I used a relatively small telescope to which I have a camera attached, and shot a series of 40 five-minute exposures (for a total of around three and a half hours of light collection time). Using this process you can then merge these individual photographs together to make a master image which contains much greater detail than would otherwise be possible. Being a ‘new moon’ at the time the photographs were taken, there was very little moonlight which can often be detrimental to the images. I’m also greatly benefitting from the council choosing to replace many of the old ‘orange’ sodium street lights with the more up-to-date LED lamps which is vastly reducing light pollution.”