The Dark Horse Nebula is a huge dark nebula that obscures part of the brightest regions of our Milky Way galaxy. In this project nightflight image the horse even has a rider – the bright planet Saturn. Turn sideways to see Saturn horseback-riding on the nape of the neck of the silhouetted horse. It was shot in June 2017, when Saturn passed through the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer.
You can only see the Dark Horse Nebula from very dark places. Any amount of light pollution or moonlight will obscure this large region of dust. Haze or other moisture in the atmosphere will also prevent you from seeing it in the night sky. If it’s visible, it’s really big. It stretches across nearly 10 degrees in the upper bulge of the Milky Way and resembles the silhouette of a prancing horse as seen from the side. Ten degrees is about the size of your fist with your arm stretched out. Currently, the Great Galactic Horse is visible in the south to the right of the Milky Way’s center at astronomical dusk.
Our friends at project nightflight said:
What makes this image even more special is that it was photographed with a DSLR and a 50mm lens without using any type of tracking device. We used a special technique we developed for untracked astrophotography. The idea is to shoot a lot of similar exposures at very high ISO ratings and keep the single exposures so short that no tracking is needed. In a stacking program the individual frames can then be digitally combined to create a final noise-free picture.
Want to know more about how to shoot untracked astro-images like this one? There’s a complete PDF tutorial from project nightlight here.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.