Messier 42, the Orion Nebula (Paul Owen/RASC Robotic Telescope) | SkyNews
Messier 42, the Orion Nebula (Paul Owen/RASC Robotic Telescope)

SkyNews image editing contest: February 2022

Download our free data of Messier 42, the Orion Nebula, and create your own version of the Universe.

With its bright core and wispy nebulosity, the Orion Nebula is one of the most popular imaging targets in the night sky — and it’s where we pointed the telescope for our February 2022 astroimage editing contest.

Messier 42, the Orion Nebula (Paul Owen/RASC Robotic Telescope) | SkyNews
Messier 42, the Orion Nebula (Paul Owen/RASC Robotic Telescope)

Also known as Messier 42, the Orion Nebula is a stellar nursery, a large cloud of gas and dust where stars are born. At about 1,500 light-years away, it’s the closest star-forming region to Earth.

The bright central region of the nebula is home to its four heftiest stars called the Trapezium cluster. NASA states that near the Trapezium cluster are stars young enough to have disks of material encircling them. These protoplanetary disks or “proplyds” are the building blocks of solar systems.

The round nebulous region in the lower-right corner of the image is Messier 43, also known as De Mairan’s Nebula, located about 1,600 light-years from Earth. These two nebulae are part of the larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which also includes the Horsehead and Flame Nebulae.

Technical details

The Orion Nebula is located in its namesake constellation, Orion.

Messier 42, the Orion Nebula, in Orion (Allendria Brunjes, Stellarium) | SkyNews
Messier 42, the Orion Nebula, in Orion (Allendria Brunjes, Stellarium)

The dataset we are sharing is huge. The RASC Robotic Telescope team captured a whopping 34.75 hours of data of this object: 4.75 hours of luminance, four hours of red-blue-green data, 16 hours of Hydrogen-alpha data and 10 hours of Oxygen III data.

A total of 36 minutes of the LRGB data was taken in 60-second exposures in order to expose the bright Trapezium cluster region.

The RASC Robotic Telescope

Located near Auberry, California, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Robotic Telescope is a 16-inch, f/8.9 RCOS with a SBIG STX-16803 camera on a Paramount ME mount. It has seven filters: LRGB, Hydrogen-alpha, Oxygen III and Sulphur II. A Canon 6D — used to capture larger targets — is piggy-backed on the scope, sporting a 200mm f/2.8 lens.

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of our Photo of the Week contest, SkyNews is buying time on the telescope, using it to gather amazing data and sharing it with our readers for free.

Each month, we are releasing data packages for one deep-sky object. Process the data, send it back to us and you’ll be entered into our astrophoto editing contest for the month. Our judges will choose the image that wins a SkyNews prize pack, including access to RASC Robotic Telescope data for the year.

SkyNews would like to thank the RASC Robotic Telescope team profusely for their assistance with this project, especially Kevin Watson and Stuart Heggie for their work capturing and compiling the data.

The rules

To be eligible, submissions must be received by February 28, 2022. One entry per person. A team of judges will choose the best submission and SkyNews will publish the winning image.

To enter, you can fill out the entry form on the SkyNews website, or you can send your image by e-mail to Be sure to include your name, contact information and the processing details.

There are no entry fees. This contest is open to residents of Canada only.

The data

This data was released on February 1, 2022. You have until February 28, 2022 to download it, edit it and enter the edited image in our contest.

The prize

The prize for the winner of the astroimage editing contest. | SkyNews
SkyNews prize pack

Each month, SkyNews will be giving the winner a prize package that includes: access to RASC Robotic Telescope data for the year, as well as some essential stargazing tools — a one-year gift subscription to SkyNews (to use or to give to a friend), a SkyNews folding chair, a SkyNews backpack and a SkyNews red light keychain.

The value of the prize pack is about $200.