Orion’s Color and Characteristics — An Observing Delight

Oh my goodness, the night was cold! I had to reset equipment on the little 8 inch telescope to add a lens (called Hyperstar) to reduce the scope’s standard focal length by 80%. The result would give us a wide field view of the Orion Nebula, whose colors and shapes are simply stunning on a good night. Even with astro-video tools, however, it is a challenge to get the setup correct, center the object, set the characteristics of the astro-video camera, and run inside to study and draw the object. Two hours after the cold outside start and the inside side-by-side sketch work (the hardest part) , we were done.

We considered God’s grace and gift to us to be able to do this from our little mountain cabin in West Virginia. Our hearts were pulled, however, to loved ones in the Philippines, where we often gathered to sketch and study objects in the presence of children and staff . Those times we used a little 80-mm refractor that we shipped to them. While not fancy equipment, the joy of showing the created heavens and answering their questions about objects and the Creator of them more than made up for the absence of fancier equipment.

Faylene’s sketch is first. She had not done a pastel sketch of any object before doing the Orion Nebula, and she is new at sketching. She did an excellent job for her limited experience. You will notice her colors, the shapes of the wings on either side of the central area of the Great Orion Nebula, which have a characteristic bright central area due to stars lighting up thin stellar clouds. She stopped after a half hour and decided to watch me.

It is about the the fifth time I have attempted to draw the object (second image), and each time I wonder how it can possibly be done. So, like Faylene, I only captured a limited star field and the most prominent colors and shapes that are apparent. I sketched for an hour, which is a small fraction of the time actually needed to render an object with this much complexity. That said, when an observer sketches an object, one never forgets it. A typical sketch time of an hour means that a person has gone back and forth from the screen to the paper several hundred times.

The Great Orion Nebula is especially hard to study and render because its size and the varieties and the detailed structure in the stellar clouds. Some of these thin clouds are in front of stars, creating a black/brown curtain where very few stars can be seen. The “wings” (clouds fanning out to the left and right of the central bright area) have layers all lighted by stars in front or to the side of them. These areas show fascinating changes colors from fiery reds to smoky greys. Tints of other colors have to be used (like a little blue, pink, orange) along with white and black to try to duplicate what we see on the screen output from the telescope and video cam.

The Orion constellation, where the Great Orion nebula is found, is mentioned thrice in the Bible:

Job 9:9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.

Job 38:31 Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion’s belt?

Amos 5:8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns midnight into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land–the LORD is his name.

All the references (along with Genesis 1:14-18 and many others) point to the Author and Creator. So, the question in our public sessions is always some version of, “How did they get there?” or “Did God really do this?” Not only did He do it, He did it with a command. He is the Creator–first of the earth, then more of the habitat, then the Solar System (primarily moon and sun), then the stars, then fish, animals, and finally man, the crown of creation. What did it take? His voice. And, it did not take forever. The whole thing took six solar days.

How can that be? What is harder, for eternal God to create all things at the beginning, or to raise people from the dead, or to lay His life down then raise it again?

Most people, in reality, have a belief in no god or a very weak god — one who is unable to get his act together, taking 45 million years to finally get a human being that passes the “so what” test, or billions of years to finally get from some sort of particle to stars to a primordial soup. The verses listed above and many others in the Bible are in stark contrast.

Think about it. Who do you think is the recent ancestor of your daughter or son? How about a 1000 generations back from them? Their heritage is what? Something less than human? That is evolution and naturalism in a nutshell.

The Bible portrays things quite differently, and shows us a universe filled with predictability, order, laws, and people who stay people, plants that stay plants, and animal families that stay in their families. As far as the stars, the Bible says He named each one, and two specific verses make this statement! That action would be a piece of cake for Eternal God. Psalm 19 expressed why He did this: the heavens show His attributes, like power and majesty. So, the opportunity to look up as we did to study Orion is special. It was a good night to give thanks.


Want to know more? Read the Bible. If you want to, use our free course on observing the heavens from a biblical view, or, in a wider scope, use the new book, eBook, or free APP for A Study of God’s Creation filled with Purpose, Direction, and Consequence. It was written for these kinds of issues . (See information under COURSES and DOWNLOADABLE COURSES on the cwm4him.org site.)

Whatever you do, pick a good dark night and look for the Orion Constellation. That is where the Great Orion Nebula is placed. A person can also the nebula with a binoculars as a puff of white in the midst of a few stars. It is a little ways from the Belt of Orion, which is a line of 3 stars at the center of the constellation.

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  1. Faylene coming from someone who only draws flowers or stick people I think your doing wonderful with your sketches. I am enjoying all you are sharing Sir Roland. God has given you a way with words that keeps one hanging on to read more.
    Blessings and love to you both.

  2. As a rank amateur in knowing the heavens, and only recognizing about a half dozen constellations including Orion, I cannot place Orion within your sketch, or is this sketch within Orion? I am familiar with the four stars denoting his shoulders and knees, plus his belt & sword, and his shield facing Taurus and the Pleiades. And of course his dog star Sirius. But this is totally new to me. Please let me know because I am curious.

  3. Roland,
    Another wonderful set of drawings and story linking God’s creation and word. The Orion Nebula is visible with the naked eye but still just a fuzzy object. It is believed to be 1340 light years away so the light you and Faylene drew left the nebula around 680AD. This is a star forming region revealing God’s continued creative works!

    • Glad you liked the post. Not quite on the same page with the light travel, however. We take a similar view to the subject as creation.com, icr.org, Jason Lisle, etc. In our view, the stars have been formed (past tense) and placed (past tense)…in keeping with the statements in Genesis and the references to Him having named the stars in two different places. Otherwise, glad to give credit, as you do, too, to the mighty hand of God in the heavens. RB

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