The two views of the Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is a wonderful sight, in binoculars or a telescope - but it is often difficult to compare what you see with your own eyes through a telescope with photographs of the same region. Hopefully, the changing image beneath will help you compare the two views of Orion with ease!


That is because the human eye is not very sensitive, equivalent to just a few seconds of a photographic exposure. So when you look with your own eye through a telescope, you only see the brightest part of the gas cloud, at the very heart of the nebula. But long-exposure photographs pick up even the faintest details.
The two photographs above, taken by Martin Morgan-Taylor (assisted by his two cats and myself), show both these extremes. The short exposure photograph was only a 30 second exposure, and this is similar to the view that amateur astronomers witness when looking down the eyepiece of their telescope. The longer exposure is 900 seconds long, showing much more detail in the nebula than can be seen with the eye.