As autumn changes to winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the glorious Orion Nebula rises in the early evening, a welcome addition to the amateur’s list of favourite targets. Even in small telescope, the vast stellar nursery, some 1,400 light years from Earth, dazzles the eye with curving wings of gas stretching away to either side of a concentrated star-forming region where larger instruments reveal the four brightest members of the Trapezium, an open cluster of very young stars. Very large instruments, of course, reveal truly stunning tapestries of light and colour across multiple wavelengths. This infrared view was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope using the HAWK-I cryogenically cooled infrared camera.
The highlight of October for meteor observers is the Orionid meteor shower, which occurs when the Earth encounters the debris stream of Halley’s Comet. With a broad maximum 21-23 October, peak rates are typically about a quarter of those seen for the Perseids of August. A good percentage of Orionids are bright and leave persistent trains.