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Eta Carinae panorama drawing

Eta Carinae panorama drawing

Drawing data

NGC 3372 Car DF
NGC 3532 Car OC
Date(s) of observation:
2012.06.17/18. Hakos
2012.06.18/19. Hakos
2012.06.23/24. Hakos
Place(s) of observation:
Hakos Astrofarm, Namibia, 1835 m amsl.
Telescope(s) used:
4" f/4 Newtonian (Dobson)
Enlargement(s) used:
16x (25mm Plössl)
Author / Observer:
Peter Kiss


If I were to choose one object in the sky, this would be it. I was dreaming about seeing and perhaps even drawing the Eta Carinae Nebula since the early 2000's, since my friends first started to travel to the southern hemisphere with deep-sky objectives in their minds. My dream came true on the evening of 2012 June 11 after our first dinner at the Hakos Astrofarm in Namibia. I was preparing slowly for the telescope session and I tried to clear all preconceptions and expectations from my head to be open for the experience. I walked out slowly to the telescopes. After being disappointed in the Tarantula Nebula's small telescope sight I quickly turned my telescope towards the Eta Carinae Nebula. Then I literally cried - it was so beautiful.

I had been nursing the idea of this panorama drawing already months before our trip to the south. But after I saw the nebula in real life, it took me seven days to decide that I would give it a try. It took 3 nights to make the sketch - from dusk till it was about 10 degrees above the horizon without stopping. Never in my life have I been drawing so fluently. On the first night I made the starfield of the right side (the area of the nebula but nothing from the nebula). It took the whole of the next night to draw the nebula itself. With this I have already accomplished a great part of my goal as I have drawn the Eta Carinae Nebula. Then on our last night I managed to finish the whole project by adding the left hand side with NGC 3532 in it.

NGC 3372: the original negative drawing.
NGC 3372: the original negative drawing.

The little 4" telescope does of course not show the delicate ripples and the colors ot the nebula. Nevertheless the sight is simply incredible. The bright part of the nebula fits into the 3° field of view. And the spectacular knots, dark nebulae and waves can almost be seen at first sight. The star field is brutal. It is real Milky Way from the thick of it with dozens of shiny bright stars and a sea of fainter stars.

Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) - NGC 3532 photo. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, Canon EOS 450D.
Eta Carinae Nebula (NGC 3372) - NGC 3532 photo. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, Canon EOS 450D. Peter Kiss

I have heared that NGC 3532 on the left hand side is the most beautiful open cluster in the sky. This cannot be far from reality - this 3 magnitude open cluster is indeed a unique sight in this small telescope and large field. Let's say it's one of the most beautiful ones.

Besides the two main attractions there are more objects in the drawing which could be the highlight of almost any constellation. One of them is the open cluster NGC 3293 shrouded in a faint nebulosity in the upper right corner. It is very dense. Its beauty is comparable to that of the Jewel Box. Proceeding towards the Eta Carinae Nebula one can find the open cluster - nebula complex of NGC 3324. Its arching shape (as seen in the telescope) is a bubble in the photos with a very contrasty edge.

There are definitely many more fainter objects in the area covered by this panorama drawing (clusters, segments of nebulae) which I didn't notice. Due to the lack of time I couldn't examine and draw the whole area with averted vision (as usual). There is one tiny object though which I spotted. It is the open cluster Trumpler 17 in the middle.

Since this is a panorama drawing (it covers multiple fields of view) I drew the positions (but not the brightnesses) of about 150 stars (the skeleton of the star field) into the sketch before drawing at night. This means a tiny dot of the same size corresponding to each star. Of course these need to be modified to the appropriate sizes (based on the brightness) under the sky.

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