Work-File: Used only for organization and editing. When all entries are received (March 8th, 2023) and a final .pdf report will be issued by the 10th.

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina


French, New York

February 2023

Report #169

The Flame Nebula: NGC 2024 in Orion

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together


The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

This month’s target:

William Herschel discovered this fetching nebula with his 18.7-inch, speculum-metal  reflector on 1 January, 1786. His handwritten journal for that night reads: A wonderful milky nebulosity, divided in three or 4 large patches including a dark space, the whole cannot take up less than half a degree; but I suppose it to be much more extensive.

Professor Courtney Seligman’s nifty website gives the following physical information on the nebula: 

Apparent size 30 by 30 arcmin. The “Flame” nebula, near the bright star Alnitak on the eastern side of the “belt” of Orion. Although the apparent closeness of Alnitak to the nebula suggests that its radiation is what lights up the nebula (Alnitak is a hundred thousand times brighter than the Sun, and two thirds of its “light” is ultraviolet radiation that is far more capable than visible light of causing such nebulae to glow), it is actually a foreground object, being only about 800 light years away, while the nebula is about 1500 light years distant. The actual energy source for the nebula is a group of OB stars hidden within its interior in visible light images, which have formed very recently (and in fact other such stars are probably forming within the nebula at the present time, as there is evidence that stars closer to the center of the nebula formed later than those in its outer regions).

The website’s front page is:

Mario Motta: Observer from Massachusetts

NGC 2024, taken with my 32-inch f/6.5 telescope in Gloucester, MA, using my ZWO ASI6200 camera.

For this object which is mostly a reflection nebula, I used Red/Blue/Green filters, but also H alpha as the Luminance, which gave nice added detail as there is some emission in Ha. No significant O3 or S2 emission to be had in NB imaging here.

Total of 3 hours imaging in all. Combined and processed in PixInsight, including the new BlurXterminator, giving crisp detail. My field of view is 24×16 arc minutes.

Larry McHenry: Observer from Pittsburgh

Emission nebula NGC2024 is located in the winter constellation of Orion – ‘The Hunter’.

The HII object, (Sh2-227), known as the “Flame Nebula”, (and also as the “Maple Leaf Nebula” by our northern friends), is about 1,354 light-years light years distant, and is about 6 light-years in diameter, and estimated to be several million years old. The glowing nebula is ionized by UV light from the nearby bright “O” class blue supergiant star Zeta Orionis, known as “Alnitak” one of Orion’s three belt stars. 

Similar to M42, the “Great Orion Nebula”, NGC 2024 is also an interstellar star factory, with a young star cluster containing several hundred stars embedded within the nebula. NGC 2024 is part of the giant Orion Molecular Cloud that contains nearly every bright, dark, and reflection nebula and star cluster visible within the constellation.

NGC2024 was discovered on the night of January 1st, 1786 by William Herschel using his 20-ft reflector, at his home in Slough. Herschel described the object as: “Wonderful black space included in remarkable milky nebulosity, divided in 3 or 4 large patches,,,.”. 


10/30/2020, from Big Woodchuck Observatory backyard in Pittsburgh, PA, using a 60mm refractor @ f/4 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and narrowband filter, 30-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 40 minutes. 

11/03/2021, from Calhoun County Park in West Virginia, using an 8-inch SCT optical tube @ f/6.3 on a GEM mount, with a CMOS color camera and broadband filter, 60-second guided exposure, live-stacked for 15 minutes. 

Explore posts in the same categories: Work File Only - Observer's Challenge Reports

%d bloggers like this: