M16 (The Eagle Nebula)

M16, the Eagle/Star Queen Nebula, NGC 6611 (cluster) and IC 4703 (nebula), Magnitude 6 (cluster), Size 7.0' x 7.0', Constellation: Serpens Cauda

Image Details:

Comments: This is actually two objects, M16 (NGC 6611), the open cluster, and IC 4703, the Eagle (or Star Queen) Nebula. While the open cluster was rather well known to amateurs, the nebula was pretty obscure prior to the famous Hubble "Finger of God" shot of the dark lanes near the Eagle's heart. With the release of the Hubble images, more amateurs began looking for/at the nebula, and discovered that it was fairly easy to see in a medium size telescope from dark sites with the help of the ubiquitous OIII filter. In 12--or even 8--inch scopes, the nebula is easy enough for me to pick out, with the sweep of the Eagle's "wings" standing out well on a good evening. I have never detected any of the dark lanes visually, though.

The Eagle is actually one part of the enormous nebulosity complex that includes the nearby Swan Nebula (M17). The Eagle, whose nebula is lit by the intense radiation of newborn O type stars lies about 6,500 light years from our pleasant little rock. It is situated in the midst of the galaxy's Sagittarius - Carina spiral arm. The dark "pillars" are the sites of star formation.

I'd been trying to get the Eagle all summer with the DSI, but ran out of clear weather. I finally captured it from the dark skies of Camp Ruth Lee in October and was quite pleased with the result. The C8/DSI easily delivered all the details that much larger scopes using very long film exposures were bringing home in the 1990s. The processing included adjusting levels and getting a pleasing color balance.

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