The second journey: Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion

This is the story about my second exploration journey in Elite Dangerous. Read more after the break.

Picking a goal

For my second journey I wanted to have a goal, but it should not be too far away because I needed to be back within a week to collect my final Power Play salary (see the previous post), another 5 million credits that I didn't want to waste. So I had a look around the Galaxy Map at a few nicely coloured nebulae that are still relatively close to the bubble. I noticed a bunch of them sitting quite close to each other, one of them being the Orion Nebula, so I decided to set out in this direction.

Just then a name flitted by on the Galaxy Map that made me want to change course: Polaris, the North Pole star. Unfortunately, however, one needs a permit to enter that system, and I have not been able to find out how to obtain that permit. So for the moment, Polaris is off-limits, but it definitely remains on my list of destinations that I want to visit. By the way, this thread in the Frontier forums maintains a list of systems which are known to require permits.

Preliminary research

While researching Orion, I learned a few interesting things:

  • The Orion constellation is not the same as the Orion Nebula - rather the nebula is just one part of the constellation.
  • From Earth the nebula appears to be a star that, together with other (real) stars, creates the Hunter's Sword, which is a small line of 3 stars that descend from Orion's Belt in the Orion constellation.
  • The Orion Nebula is part of a larger nebula called the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which includes other nebulae such as Barnard's Loop, the Horsehead Nebula and the Flame Nebula.
  • Alternative names for the Orion Nebula are Messier 42, M42 and NGC 1976. A search in the galaxy map for these names yields no results, though.

Maybe I'm fooling myself, but I would like to believe that playing ED also involves just a wee little bit of education. I certainly haven't read so many astronomy articles in years.


Before heading out I set myself to the agreeable task of outfitting my Asp Explorer, the Romancing the Stars, and spending all that stupidly earned money - pure joy indeed! ☺

Besides the long-coveted A-class frame shift drive, I pampered myself to a 6B fuel scoop (6A is still insanely expensive for my purse) and two relatively expensive AFMUs (B3 and C5). I also installed 4 Heat Sink Launchers and a set of D-rated components (where possible) to minimize weight. I didn't want to dispense with the shield generator, though, that's just too much risk for my taste.

In the end, I arrived at a satisfying jump range of 35.75 ly.

Leaving the bubble

As the initial vector for heading out, I selected JW 285 as my target, simply because it is close to where the galaxy map positions you when you search for "Orion Nebula", and because of its simple name. JW 285 is 1215 ly away from Diaguandri, which was the starting point of my journey. An attempt to calculate a route to JW 285 failed, however, at which time I vaguely remembered having read before about limitations of the galaxy map route calculator - 1000 ly being the limit, or something like that. Checking the galaxy map I saw that the Witch Head Nebula was roughly somewhere along the way to the Orion Nebula, so I selected "Witch Head Sector DL-Y D7" as the target for my initial vector.

Although I had completely stripped my ship of weapons, at this point I decided to try out Open play. Maybe I would have a surprise encounter with a fellow explorer, and if not I hoped I at least would not run into a maniacal solitary killer.

Witch Head Nebula

While approaching the Witch Head Nebula, seeing the nebula becoming larger with each jump was a nice experience of arriving at my goal. On the way I had a look at a few class G stars (same class as Sol) in the hope to find an earth-like world, but, alas, no success. I did find a class A star with 4 water worlds, though, but I forgot to record its name. By the way, from now on I will refer to earth-like worlds and water worlds as ELW and WW, respectively, as these are accepted abbreviations among the ED explorer community.

When I arrived near the Witch Head Nebula I wasn't overly impressed. A few swaths of vague colors was all I saw, so onwards...

Spirograph Nebula

The Spirograph Nebula had caught my eye, so I decided to make a small detour. I set BD-12 1172 as the destination since this system seems to sit at the center of the nebula. Here I encountered the biggest star that I had seen so far while playing ED: A large class O star with over 47 solar masses. Upon entering the system the main star filled the entire view of the HUD - an impressive sight!

The star indeed forms the core of the Spirograph Nebula, while the nebula itself spreads out into the surrounding planetary system. An eerie blue-greenish glow filled the cockpit, providing for a weird mood the entire time I was there. Also noteworthy is that all planets in the system are of unusual size and mass - even the high metal-content planets (HMCPs) close to the star are several earth-masses heavy.

Another peculiarity is that the central star is orbited by several dwarf stars (3 class T and 1 class L), and an M class star. One of the dwarf stars even has rings! I got so excited by all this that I surface-scanned the whole damn system. While exploring one of the dwarf stars I encountered a weak signal source (WSS) which upon investigation turned out to be a lonely Sidewinder whose pilot was probably too scared from encountering someone else this far away from civilization to get the idea to attack me ☺.

This is the most fantastic system I have seen so far, and was well worth the detour. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page for the Spirograph Nebula.

NGC 1999 Nebula

The main system for the NGC 1999 Nebula is V380 Orionis. This is a class A star with merely 1.6 solar masses. Compared to BD-12 1172, there is not much to see here, and the nebula is not visible at all. Also, the star system I found in Elite differs from what is described on Wikipedia: I found a triple star system, whereas the Wikipedia article says that this should be quadruple star system. Oh well...

Running Man Nebula

Next I selected "Running Man Sector WF-N B7-0" as the target system to enter the Orion Nebula. Taking my cue from the name of the system, I looked up the Running Man Nebula on Wikipedia. This nebula actually consists of three NGC objects: NGC 1973, NGC 1975 and NGC 1977. Unfortunately these cannot be found in the ED's galaxy map. I went to "Running Man Sector CQ-Y D14" to check if anything of the nebula can be seen, and indeed there is a nice blue/purple haze when you head away from the star. Also, as a small bonus the system contains a terraformable WW.

Chasing the Trapezium Cluster

Returning my focus on the Orion Nebula, I tried to identify and visit the Trapezium Cluster, which according to Wikipedia is a cluster consisting of four star in the heart of the Orion Nebula. The stars are named Theta Orionis A, Theta Orionis B, Theta Orionis C and Theta Orionis D.

Searching in the galaxy map for "Theta Orionis C", the brightest of the four stars, landed me on a star some 2.7k ly away and in a totally different direction from Sol than the Orion Nebula. Now I am officially confused - either Wikipedia or Elite is lying (which I find unlikely) or I have misunderstood something (more likely, but I have no idea what). I had visited a system named "* tetO2 Orionis C" before - is this maybe the star I was looking for? If so, then why is its designation in Elite different from the official name?

Finally, I noticed that there exists a Trapezium sector fairly close to the Orion Nebula, but it definitely is not in the nebula's core. So I'm still confused.

A surprise!

HR 1950: My first neutron star!

I hadn't planned to look for one, nor even hoped to find one, because I knew that I would soon go on a longer journey towards the Galactic core where - I had heard rumours - the so-called Neutron Fields are beckoning. But anyway, now that I have stumbled over it I am certainly not going to turn away ☺.

The neutron star is, by the way, a companion to its main star, a relatively large class B star of over 8 solar masses and a 3.7 solar radius. In the system map, the neutron star is listed with 0.0000 solar radius, so I was curious at which distance I would be able to scan it. As it turns out, scanning commenced at a distance of exactly 5.00 ls. Luckily I had read up on the characteristics of neutron stars before I got any closer, so I wasn't surprised when my ship sneakily started to build up heat after I had passed the 0.25 ls marker. It is entirely possible that the little bugger might have got me if I hadn't been warned.

Flame Nebula (NGC 2024)

Checking on the Flame Nebula I visited the systems "Trapezium Sector AF-Z C5" and "Trapezium Sector BV-Y D11". In both systems there was nothing special to see except the diffuse reddish light of Barnard's Loop.

Horsehead Nebula

Next on the list was the Horsehead Nebula. I visited "Horsehead Dark Region OS-T C3-7" (lies just outside of the nebula) and "Horsehead Dark Region IR-V C2-9" (is smack in the middle). All in all not terribly exciting - did I miss something?

As I later learned, the best views of the nebula can be seen from the outside, for instance from "Messier 78 Sector IR-W D1-0".

Barnard's Loop

There is no specific system associated with Barnard's Loop, the loop is simply everywhere around you when you fly into the region. In "Trapezium Sector XO-Y B1-0" the nebula dust was especially dense, although whether this was from the Horsehead Nebula, the Flame Nebula or from Barnard's Loop is not clear (probably a mixture of all).

Messier 78

More as an afterthought, I checked up on Messier 78 (also known as M 78 and NGC 2068). A bit unexpected, I did find this nebula in the galaxy map under "Messier 78". According to this Wikipedia article, HD 38563A and HD 38563B make the dust in Messier 78 visible because it reflects the light of these stars. I did not visit HD 38563, though.

Systems that I did visit:

  • Trapezium Sector CG-X D1-20
  • Trapezium Sector CG-X D1-17 (has nice views of bluish Messier 78, the red arc of Barnard's Loop together with the Galaxy)
  • Trapezium Sector CB-W C2-6
  • Trapezium Sector CB-W C2-3
  • Trapezium Sector CB-W C2-4

The last two systems are only slightly more than 1 ly apart, both sporting close-ups of Messier 78. "Trapezium Sector CB-W C2-3", in particular, was well worth the visit as it gave me some of the best composition shots of Messier 78, Barnard's Loop and the spectacular Orion Nebula.

Returning to the bubble

Although the California Nebula was beckoning, I was a bit satiated from all those nebulae and their color riots, so I decided to start the tour back to the bubble on some other route. Checking the Galaxy Map for unusual stars, the first one I found was "Synuefe KS-R D5-2", a neutron star almost 600 ly from the position in Messier 78 I currently was at, so I arbitrarily decided to fly back via this system - certainly a long detour, but who knows what I would find along the way?

Unfortunately the game crashed on one of my first jumps, and when I had relaunched I could no longer find the Synuefe neutron star (searching in the galaxy map for the system name did not work, a well-known bug as I now know), but instead I found another one, "Col 121 Sector VA-N D7-12", which I used as the starting point for the trip back home.

The following list contains the main waypoints of the route that I took to get back to the bubble. Because of the galaxy map search bug I started to record the approximate galactic coordinates of each system (in the form x:z:y) so that I would be able to find it again later on. More on the galactic coordinate system in the next post.

  • Col 121 Sector VA-N D7-12 (?:?:?): Neutron Star, hop distance = ?
  • HIP 38064 (?:?:?): Class O star, hop distance = 414.90 ly. As usual for class O stars, this one has a large number of orbiting bodies: planets, other suns, and those in turn with their own planets (even gas giants!). A very diverse system architecture.
  • Col 173 Sector XF-W D2-27 (950:-52:-432): Neutron star, hop distance = 208.31 ly
  • HIP 38716 (715:7:-329): Class O star, hop distance = 262.58 ly. This system has two class O stars, with a grand total of 17 (!) child suns, all of them T Tauri type stars. One of the child suns even has another child sun, so this is my first system with grandchildren suns, so to speak ☺. Will I ever see grand-grandchildren suns?
  • HIP 40430 (311:-43:-26): Class O star, hop distance = 508.08 ly.
  • HIP 63835 (226:4:158): Class O star, hop distance = 208.23 ly. This system has only 1 main star, but three (!) black holes (15.4961, 6.4414 and 3.6953 solar masses), one of them accompanying the main star in close orbit, the other two tucked away more distant in one of the star clusters that orbit the main star. These are the first black holes that I have seen, so it may be understandable that I almost overlooked them even in the system map, because they are, well, so BLACK. Another of the system's attractions is how there is a set of bodies that is "slaved" to the main star AND the three black holes, resulting in weird designations such as "HIP 63835 ABCD 1" for a star in that set, and "HIP 63835 ABCD 1 C A" or "HIP 63835 ABCD 10 A A" for planets even further down the orbiting hierarchy.
  • Col 285 Sector AL-O D6-171 (169:38:194): Class S star, hop distance = 75.10 ly. My first class S star, a giant beast of over 30 solar radius. It is actually difficult to circle around this star to find its closest orbiting planets which are several 100 LS away!
  • Diaguandri: Hop distance = 378.06 ly.


Here comes the inevitable number crunching section ☺. The main summary:

  • Unfortunately I didn't record travel distances until I had already started on the return leg of my journey. The hop distances I did record on the way back sum up to a total of 2055.26 ly.
  • Overall profit = 4238435 (before/after cashing in: 2427280 / 6665715)
  • Profit from exploration (10 pages): 1307132 + 595778 + 392109 + 193365 + 331020 + 369930 + 238196 + 376714 + 255158 + 17888 = 4077290
  • Profit from first discovery: 4238435 - 4077290 = 161145
  • Total systems scanned = 185
  • Rank after this journey: Pathfinder, 21% on the way to the next rank

Most valuable systems (over 100k):

  • BD-12 1172 (164k)
  • HIP 38716 (216k)
  • HIP 40430 (127k)
  • HIP 63835 (228k)
  • HIP 38064 (119k)
  • Synuefe HY-P D6-8 (240k)
  • Spirograph Sector BQ-Y D15 (109k)
  • Ch'iang Fei (113k)

Most valuable bodies (over 30k):

  • BD-12 1172 17 A = 30k
  • HIP 38716 A 20 A = 56k (WW, 0.4223 earth masses, 332K surface temp, 14.62 atm)
  • HIP 40430 A 12 A = 31k (Rocky Planet, candidate for terraforming)
  • HIP 63835 B / C / D / CD 3 = 44k / 39k / 37k / 39k (the first 3 black holes, the 4th ???)
  • HIP 38064 12 B = 34k
  • HR 1950 B = 36k
  • V380 Orionis C 2 = 34k
  • V2338 Orionis 4 / 5 = 40k / 27k
  • Synuefe HY-P D6-8 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 = 37k / 53k / 53k / 48k / 23k
  • Running Man Sector FW-W D1-8 ? = 38k
  • Trapezium Sector BV-Y D11 4 = 56k
  • Col 121 Sector VA-N D7-12 = 36k
  • Spirograph Sector BQ-Y D15 A ? = 30k
  • NGC 2232 Sector YE-H B10-0 5 = 34k
  • Running Man Sector CQ-Y D21 ? = 40k
  • Col 173 Sector XF-W D2-27 = 36k
  • Col 140 Sector DB-X D1-59 A 6 ? = 30k
  • Synuefe XL-P B24-1 A 6 = 30k
  • Ch'iang Fei 4 / 5 = 28k / 56k (both WWs)
  • Hyades Sector RS-T B3-3 3 = 33k

Ship stats:

  • Hull / cockpit integrity = Both 97%
  • Ship integrity = 0% (!)
  • Paintwork = 0%
  • Module health = Thrusters (93%), Cargo Hatch (91%), Shield Generator (93%), Frame Shift Drive (94%), Standard Docking Computer (90%), Heat Sink Launcher (89%, 91%, 92%, 96%), ADS (91%), Fuel Scoop (96%), Sensors (94%), Life Support (96%), Power Distributor (96%), Power Plant (95%), DSS (100%), AFMU (2x 97%)

Interesting systems seen on this trip

  • 65 Psi Eridani: System with 5 stars, two of them class B (blue-white) stars that are very close together to the entry point. I had my first scare here, thinking that my trip would end already after only a few hops.
  • HIP 23483: Has 2 helium-rich gas giants (A6 and A7), a gas giant type that I have never seen before.
  • Spirograph Sector GM-V C2-0: Has extremely small planets, e.g. radius of the closes planet is only 596km. Is this common?
  • BD-12 1172, i.e. the core of the Spirograph Nebula. Spectacular! See the main text for descriptive details.
  • Spirograph Sector BQ-Y D15: Has a water giant planet, a giant type that I have never seen before.
  • Trapezium Sector CB-W C2-3: Excellent view of various nebulae in the region, including the spectacular Orion Nebula.
  • HIP 38716: Has a class V gas giant, a gas giant type that I have never seen before.
  • Wregoe CB-H B51-10 (270:-6:66): A class M star with a surprising number of gas giants and otherwise ringed planets. One of the gas giants has a nice graphics in the system map that reminds me of gorgonzola cheese ☺. Unfortunately the real planet is too far away from its star and does not get enough light to show any nice colors.
  • Water world systems:
    • ? (a class A system with 4 WWs)
    • V2338 Orionis 5
    • Running Man Sector CQ-Y D14
    • Trapezium Sector BV-Y D11 (the WW is orbiting another, larger planet)
    • HIP 38716 (the WW is orbiting a child sun)
    • Col 285 Sector XP-E C12-2
    • Ch'iang Fei (2 WWs)
  • Class O star systems:
    • BD-12 1172 (core of the Spirograph Nebula)
    • HIP 38064
    • HIP 38716 (2 class O stars)
    • HIP 40430
    • HIP 63835
  • Class S star systems:
    • Col 285 Sector AL-O D6-171
  • Neutron star systems:
    • HR 1950
    • Col 121 Sector VA-N D7-12
    • Col 173 Sector XF-W D2-27
  • Black hole systems:
    • HIP 63835 (3 black holes)