NGC 2064 is the upper nebula in the picture. McNeil's Nebula is the small nebula near the bottom. This image was taken in March 2004.
Click here to see a March 2005 image.
This a 25 minute exposure (10:5:5:5 LRGB) with an ST-9E CCD camera thru Kopernik's 20-inch F/8.1 Ritchey Chretien Cassegrain telescope working at F/5. The field of view is 9.5x12 arc minutes with North at the top.
McNeil's Nebula, a newly appearing Reflection Nebula:
The squiggly object near the bottom of the Kopernik image is a reflection nebula in the constellation of Orion. It is related to a newly forming star. This nebula has apparently varied in brightness over the years and was not visible for most of the last century before late 2003. The brightest knots are around 15th magnitude. Amateur Astronomer Jay McNeil of Paducah, KY discovered it in January 2004 while working in his backyard using his 3-inch refractor and CCD camera.
This entire area of Orion is the site of new star formation. Apparently a protostar (red object at the bottom of the nebula?) is surrounded by a hot circumstellar disk. Most of these newly forming stars are hidden from view behind the dark molecular cloud that fills the area. However, sometime after late December 2003 a hole opened up allowing light from the protostar's disk to leak out and reflect off of the surrounding gas and dust. This type of quickly forming bright nebula is quite rare and may only last a few months. However, as of March 2005 the nebula has changed little. The nebula and red "star" at its south end seem to be related to IR source IRAS 05436-0007, and possibly Herbig-Haro Objects 22 and 23. Herbig-Haro objects are nebulous blobs that arise from jets of gas squirting in opposite directions from a star-forming disk. The blobs light up where they strike surrounding gas. (Also see NGC 1999)
NGC 2064, a Reflection Nebula:
This faint reflection nebula is just south of reflection nebula M-78. These two, plus NGC 2067 are a part of the same object. They are separated by a wide lane of dark matter that is a part of dark nebula Lynds 1630.
Lynds 1630, a Dark Nebula:
A small portion of this large dark nebula (aka Barnard 33) winds through the Kopernik image above. In this area near M-78 there a patch covering about a half-degree where the sky is heavily obscured by absorbing molecular cloud through which scarcely a star shows. This gas and dust complex covers much of northern Orion. In the M-78 area and again in the Flame and Horse Head Nebula area the cloud that makes up Lynds 1630 is lit up by reflection or emission nebulosity. Lynds 1630 contains many IR sources that mark the location of new protostars that can not be observed in visual wavelengths. One of these is the source of the new McNeil's Nebula.
Classification: Reflection Nebula
Dreyer description: "Extremely faint, very small, 9th magnitude star to the northwest 4 arc minutes."
Classification: A faint optical counterpart to IRAS 05436-0007 that has gone into outburst and has produced a reflection nebulosity.
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George Normandin, KAS
March 9th, 2005