Blue Horse Counting Saturn’s Rings

By Jo on

Astrophotography by Mark Elvov

This incredible image of Saturn in front the Blue Horsehead Nebula provides an intriguing glimpse into our place in the universe. Captured here by Mark Elvov with an Atik 11000, the Blue Horsehead (IC 4592) is a reflection nebula in Scorpius made up of very fine dust that reflects light from Nu Scorpii – the star in the horse’s eye. Lying roughly near the horse’s ear is IC 4601, a second reflection nebula lit by binary star system HD 147013 and other intensely radiating stars in the area.

IC 4592 also lies on the edge of the colourful Rho Ophiuchi complex, a beautiful mix of reflection and emission nebulae surrounded by dark clouds and globular cluster M4.

Despite the stunning nature of the region, it’s one of the less common objects that we see, and far less common than the more famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion. But what’s even less common is to see planetary and deep sky astrophotography combined in one image like this.

“I was not going to image Saturn. I planned a 4 pane mosaic but I noticed something odd in the horse’s nose and it turned out that on April 20-22 the planet was exactly in the position you see in the image. I first thought to abandon the project but then realized I can deal with it like with the Orion nebula, by combining short and long exposures. So I made a few hundred 0.001 sec. exposures of the planet and then layered it on the image I did last year. The data was acquired in my remote observatory in Arizona.” – Mark Elvov

You can see more of Mark’s incredible images over at his Astrobin gallery. He was also involved in a recent scientific paper surveying low surface brightness satellite galaxies around nearby spirals that you can read more about here.