A clear night earlier in the week meant I could collect some photons for a couple of hours with the Meade LX10. Just before packing up I went for some quick shots of NGC2261 in the constellation Monoceros.
After processing this is what I had.
This little triangular patch of light has an illustrious back story: it was the first object to be photographed by the famous 200 inch Hale telescope at Palomar. The star at the right vertex of the nebula is a variable star named R Monocerotis. In 1916 the eminent astronomer Edwin Hubble noticed that the nebula itself was subject to significant changes in brightness and appearance over periods of days and weeks.
Amateur astronomers are able to target this nebula fairly easily. There are several good examples of how the nebula varies over time.
The variations are attributed to small, opaque clouds passing between the star and the more distant material of the nebula. The resulting moving shadows dramatically change the nebula's look over fairly short periods.
After this initial test of finding and imaging the nebula I think making my own animation of changes to Hubble's Variable Nebula might well be a good project for the winter!
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Dr Adrian Jannetta. Amateur astronomer, maths teacher and science enthusiast.