David Malin
The Carina Nebula, False Color, Narrow Band Image Original plates exposed in 19791980. This image produced in 2008.

Astrophotograph; UK Schmidt Telescope of the Anglo-Australian Observatory, Eastwood, Australia

TThe Great Nebula in Carina is 7,000 light-years away but is easily visible to the unaided eye. It contains vast amounts of gas and dust and many very hot stars. Their ultraviolet radiation ionizes the gas, which emits narrow, monochromatic emission lines characteristic of the constituent elements. This image combines the light of two separate emission lines of oxygen in the UV and green parts of the spectrum with a strong red line from sulfur, using arbitrary colors to aid interpretation.

This image was made by exposing three individual glass plate negatives using narrow band filters to isolate [OII, 373nm], [OIII, 501nm] and [SII, 672nm] emission lines (singly and doubly ionized oxygen and singly ionized sulphur). The plates were contact printed onto film using unsharp masks to control contrast. The positives were scanned and registered to create RGB channels in Photoshop CS3, where R = [OIII], G = [SII] and B = [OII].

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