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IC 2177, The Seagull Nebula

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

This is a narrowband image of the nebula IC 2177, known as the Seagull Nebula.  Frankly, I think it looks a lot more like a parrot, even a phoenix (which would be a more dramatic name), but it’s hard to deny that it looks like a bird of some kind. It’s just a terrifically photogenic deep-sky object.

Also going for it is the fact that it was discovered by an amateur, Isaac Roberts, who published what Wikipedia calls ” the first popular account of celestial photography of the deep sky” in 1893.  I was going to complain that it took me four nights to collect the data for this image, but I’m sure Mr. Roberts had it a lot tougher than me back in the day.

Click to enlarge

Image data:

Exposures:  28 x 600s Ha , 23 x 900s O-III, 17 x 900s S-II (14h 40m total), all binned 2×2

Software:  guiding by PHD, stacking in DeepSkyStacker, processing in Photoshop CS3

Telescope:  Borg 77EDII 330mm f/4.3

Camera:  SBIG ST-8300M with Baader standard narrowband filters

Mount:  CGEM

Taken March 17, 18, 19, and 22, 2012 from Whitehouse Station, NJ.

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IC405 and IC410 in narrowband

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

This image represents four nights of exposures, including plenty of human errors and adjustments along the way.  Ultimately, 11 hours of exposures went into the final image, though I took about 20.  This became more of a project than I thought it would!

IC405 (right) is known as the Flaming Star Nebula.  I don’t know if IC410 has a nickname, but people call the two little gas squiggles near the top The Tadpoles (not to be confused with the interacting galaxies with the same nickname).  I wanted to capture both in one frame, which is just barely doable at 330 mm with the Borg 77EDII.  In H-alpha, these are both reasonably bright, but the O-III and S-II data are very dim.  In fact, I took two nights of exposures, split equally among the three filters, before I realized that 10 minutes binned 2×2 wasn’t giving me enough O-III or S-II to stretch.  The histogram was so narrow, the nebulosity pulled into a few discrete levels, even at 16 bits.  So I went back and took two more nights of just O-III and S-II, but binned 3×3.  This sacrifice in resolution was less than ideal (it’s a ridiculous 10″ per pixel), but I drizzled the resulting frames to pull a little more detail out, then combined it back with the H-alpha at the original resolution.  I don’t even want to talk about the night of data I lost because I forgot to check the “autosave” box in CCDSoft.  Then I processed the heck out of it, and though I’m less than thrilled with the final result, it’s time to let this one go until next year.

Image data:

Exposures:  23 x 600s Ha binned 2×2, 23 x 600s O-III binned 3×3, 20 x 600s S-II binned 3×3, a total of 11h 0m

Software:  guiding by PHD, stacking in DeepSkyStacker, processing in Photoshop CS3

Telescope:  Borg 77EDII 330mm f/4.3

Camera:  SBIG ST-8300M with Baader standard narrowband filters

Mount:  CGEM

Taken March 5-6 and 13-14, 2012 from Whitehouse Station, NJ.

The Horsehead Nebula in H-alpha

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

The 1983 National Geographic cover featuring this nebula really captured my imagination as a child.  I’ve always thought it was one of the coolest things in the sky, and it’s amazing that amateurs can now take images from their backyard that rival the best professional observatory pictures then.

This grayscale image represents 27 ten-minute exposures through a Hydrogen-alpha narrowband filter. This filter captures only deep-red light produced by ionized Hydrogen (and Nitrogen) in the nebula.  Consider that the visible light we see ranges from about 400 to 700 nm in wavelength.  Here, you are only seeing the light from a tiny sliver of the spectrum from 653-659 nm which, fortunately for us, is where nearly all of the light from this object is emitted.

The Horsehead Nebula in H-alpha

Image data:

Exposures:  27 x 600s Ha, a total of 4h 30m, taken 17 Feb 2012.

Software:  guiding by PHD, stacking in DeepSkyStacker, processing in Photoshop CS3

Telescope:  Borg 77EDII w/ f/4.3 reducer

Camera:  SBIG ST-8300M with Baader filters

Mount:  CGEM

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