I Wasn’t Expecting This

Many of the objects in the southern hemisphere sky are unfamiliar to me, including this, the “Running Chicken Nebula” (IC2944).  But I also wasn’t expecting to have another image for you so soon.  There are a bunch of targets in the queue that are RGB rather than narrowband targets, and these take longer to capture because you have to wait until there is no Moon out – on top of everything else that can get in the way of astrophotography.  Somehow, I thought this was one of those targets, but it is mostly emission nebula, and thus a narrowband target.

There’s a lot more nebulosity to the right of this frame, and it may be that the “Running Chicken” name derives from features in that area.  I certainly don’t see anything like a chicken in this image.

The nebula is about 6,500 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Centaurus.  It is also known as the Lambda Centauri Nebula (the bright star near the top is Lambda Centauri), or Caldwell 100.  If you’re familiar with the sky down there, this area is very close to the “Southern Cross”, a well known asterism.

The small, dark specks you see near the center are Bok globules, which are often associated with star forming regions, but in this case there is no evidence of star formation.

It took quite a bit of processing to get the colors the way I wanted them.  As is usually the case, a natural color (RGB) image of this nebula is pretty much all red, due to the strong hydrogen-alpha emission.  Although the colors here are “false”, the narrowband image reveals a lot more detail.  In this case, I’m amazed by the amount of wispy, delicate structure in the central blue-ish region.  This was apparent from the beginning of processing, but I had to find a compromise between visibility of detail and pleasing colors.  I hope you agree that it worked out well.


About Greg Marshall

I am a retired electronics engineer and after a few months of enjoying my leisure I began to miss doing product development. My astronomy hobby always needed new solutions to unique problems, so I decided that whenever I came up with a good solution I would try to make it available to others.

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