Running Man Nebula

2021-01-10 NGC 1977 Running Man Nebula Stack_84frames_7244s

NGC 1973, NGC 1975 and NGC 1977

Object Details

Magnitude: +7.0
Apparent size:10 x 5 arc min.
Diameter:5.1 light years.
Distance:1800 light years.

The Running Man Nebula is situated right next to the Orion Nebula, M42, (the pinkish stuff at the bottom) and so it often gets simply combined with M42 by amateur astronomers or is completely neglected. I’ve previously done both those things too, so this time I decided to image it in its own right.

Here’s a DSLR image I took a long time ago with both of them together:

2011-01-29 Orion Nebula M42 (left) and Running Man Nebula (right). r.p.

Like M42/M43, the Running Man has more than one designation. The three NGC numbers relate to illuminated sections of the same cloud of gas. Here in Australia we only call it the Running Man because it seems silly to call it three NGC numbers, which aren’t even consecutive – and it really does look like a running man:

Exit sign image from Wikipedia Commons

Can you see the running man? If not, I’m interested to know what shape the nebula might seem to represent to you.

For some reason, my trusted Sky Safari Pro app does not mention the name Running Nebula, nor do two sky manuals in my possession. Wikipedia does – on a page called Sh2-279. That’s an easy to remember name that rolls of the tongue!

Don’t get me started on astronomical object names. The logic to them is known only to members of a secret society known as the IAU.

Today I noticed a media release that 690 million astronomical objects had been catalogued so far by the Dark Energy Survey (DES). 690 million objects each with unique identification numbers! I can’t wait to find out what the numbers are.

Suffice to say that many objects with weird and long “names” are listed in multiple catalogues and so have multiple “names” to confuse us.


Back to the Running Man Nebula. Unlike the adjacent M42, it is a reflection nebula – visible only by reflected light from nearby stars. How do we know that, you ask? Because astronomers measure the light spectrum, which shows emissions across the full range, similar to stars. The other type of nebula is called an emission nebula and they only shine at the specific wavelengths of atoms in the nebula, such as hydrogen, helium and oxygen.

I’m annoyed at the satellite trail – and amazingly I caught another on the following night. They are the first ones I’ve had for two years; and it means I’ve got to start tweaking my software a bit to avoid capturing them.

Thanks for reading this far!

Image Data

Feature image date:2021-01-10
Exposure:120 minutes (86 second sub-frames x 84).
Field of View:Cropped to 47.6 x 47.6 arcmin. Up is 337° E of N

Image Analysis

Here’s an all-sky image, generated for me by, showing where the object is located:

All Sky (North is up).

Here’s a constellation view, generated for me by, showing where the object is located in the constellation:

(As seen in Northern Hemisphere)

Here is a low resolution annotated image of the object, also generated for me by

Running Man Nebula (High Resolution)

If these images do not appear, it is because the server has gone off-line.

Telescope Details

SkyWatcher Esprit 120 mm apochromatic 3-element refractor; 840 mm f/l @ f/7.
Field flattener; no filter.
SkyWatcher EQ6-R Pro mount; ZWO ASI120 guide camera.
Imaging camera: ZWO ASI 071 MC Pro (CMOS 28.4mm 16 Mpx).
Software: EQMOD, PHD2, SharpCap, Gimp.
Observatory location: 34° South.

Images © Roger Powell

I’m a founder member of Macarthur Astronomical Society


  1. Well, once you mention it and show the image, then yes, it can somewhat fit the representation of a running man . . . but otherwise (when I previously looked at it) I didn’t see any particular shape (I’m terrible at Rorschach test, although i’m a great fan of the character).

    I’m waiting for a crystal-clear night to try and duplicate your DSLR capture (but without the fancy equipment).

    By the way, I’m having trouble confirming the shutter speed limit. It turns out for longer captures i have (3 sec at 400mm) I can’t decide if it’s star trails I see of just camera/lens movement, or a combination of both.

    The ‘trails’ are not consistent, which perhaps indicate the combination of a movement in the equipment combined with some trailing. I say that because even at slower speeds I see photos with similar traces alongside other photos at the same speed that are sharp.

    More investigation to come . . . but not soon, given the weather predictions.

    Oh, very nice header image.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No fancy equipment. Just DSLR, intervalometer, tripod. Oh wait, just one fancy piece . . . .

      . . . . I hang a 3 kg weight from the tripod. It lowers the centre of gravity and reduces the amount of camera shake. Perhaps that may solve your problem. In my case I use a spare telescope counterweight. A shopping bag with books would do.


    2. Intervalometer . . . if I understand it correctly, I don’t know that I need one as I can program the camera to do the same thing. I mean, I’ve not tried it, so there may be some advantage to using an off-camera device.

      As for the tripod, yup, hanging a weight helps. The problem, as I mentioned, is the collar for that particular lens is not one of the best (or even one of the mediocre). I use an infrared remote (with the lens up option) to trigger the camera (meaning, one press to lift the mirror, then wait a second or so and then another press to snap the photo). That method gives me pretty good results. I also use a Manfroto video head because I find it allows precise adjustments along with it being very solid when locked tight.

      As I said, I’ll be trying a few capture when conditions improve.

      By the way, you do divide by the crop factor when calculating minimum shutter speed to avoid trails. That means that for my 400mm lens, it’s 500/(400*1.5) = 0.8333 sec . . . although I know I’ve pushed that a bit. But, probably not 3 sec.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Manual infrared firing is probably satisfactory for what you have described.

        I have found an intervalometer very useful for taking a series of longer exposures in bulb mode, astronomy and lightning capture, using programmed or manual firing.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember the first time I saw an artificial satellite, long before predicted passes were available on the internet. It was even long before the internet! I was shocked and intrigued, until it dawned on me what I was seeing.

      As astro-photographers we have to get used to the increasing intrusion of satellites into our shots. I’ve always been in favour of scientific satellites. Now we are faced with satellites for profit and that is a different matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With the help of Telescope Paul and Ceridwensilverhart I think I have a super name for a new band:
    “Snoopy and the Frogpoles”
    ©R.Powell 2021


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