The North American Nebula

NGC7000 or The North American Nebula is found in Cygnus, just northwest of the bright star Deneb. A huge complex of glowing gas and dark dust the nebula covers and area several times larger than the full moon.

The image here is the sum of 60 individual frames, 30 at 1 minute and 30 more at 5 minutes of exposure taken with a TeleVue 76mm scope and a ZWO ASI1600mm Pro camera through a hydrogen alpha filter.

The bright North American Nebula and the rifts of the dark nebulae LDN 935 in hydrogen alpha light
The bright North American Nebula and the rifts of the dark nebulae LDN 935 in hydrogen alpha light

The Veil in Hydrogen Alpha

To allow a wider field of view requires changing optics. In this case putting away the TV-76mm telescope and mounting a vintage Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED camera lens.

The Nikkor 180mm is a classic lens, once a favorite of professional film photographers for news and portrait work. Now the lens is out of date, not autofocus, or image stabilized, a bit of very good optics left behind by technology.

Of course, autofocus or image stabilization are useless for astrophotography. With a simple adapter the lens can be mounted to a modern system and used as a fully manual lens in an application where the excellent optical quality can still be appreciated.

The Veil Nebula in hydrogen alpha
The Veil Nebula in hydrogen alpha

Rho Ophiuchi Region in Monochrome

The Rho Ophiuchi region is a confused mass of gas and dust just above Antares and the head of Scorpio. This extensive nebula complex is far larger than the single frame shown here, extending far to the east into Sagittarius.

Rho Ophiuchi itself is the triple star seen here at the top center of the image, at the center of a bright reflection nebula. The double at lower center is Iota Scorpii and the star Al Niyat is on the right side. Also notable are the dark clouds of dust and gas that block the light of the stars and nebula behind creating black voids in the starfield.

This area is quite colorful, with both the blues of reflection nebulae and the reds of emission nebulae. I have gathered some color data but need more before assembling a proper color image of this region.

The Rho Ophiuchi region in monochrome
The Rho Ophiuchi region in monochrome

The Eagle in Hydrogen Alpha

I have been processing more images from this last week. This one is another classic nebula, the Eagle. The nebula, also known as M16 or NGC 6611 can be found in thick regions of of our galactic core towards the constellation of Serpens.

The eponymous eagle can be seen near the center of the brightest region, a structure of darker material likely held together by the gravity of objects inside it. In this case those objects would be forming stars, or protostars, the result of the dust and gas being drawn together under the influence of gravity.

I have a full set of color filters, once I have had fun re-doing many of these classic nebulae in hydrogen alpha I will probably begin doing full color versions. Color takes a lot more exposure time and much more processing. There are techniques to add H-alpha data to an RGB image to get more definition in the nebula structure, something I have not done and should probably figure out.

The Eagle Nebula M16 in Hydrogen Alpha
The Eagle Nebula M16 in Hydrogen Alpha

Trifid in Hydrogen Alpha

Next up is the Trifid Nebula in Hydrogen Alpha. This bright nebula is less than two degrees above the Lagoon Nebula as seen in the post a few days ago. Indeed, the bright wisps along the bottom of this shot are the northern bits of the Lagoon.

The Trifid, also known as M20 or NGC6514, is another stellar nursery where star formation is occurring as we watch. The dense gas and dust is being carved into a cavity by the stallar winds of these hot young stars within the nebula creating the bright core cut with dark lanes of dust that we see in this image.

To truly capture this region I need to take at lest one more frame of the area and put together the several resulting frames as a mosaic to cover this large and beautiful nebulae complex.

Trifid in Hydrogen Alpha
The Trifid Nebula in Hydrogen Alpha

Sh2-54 in Hydrogen Alpha

Sharpless 2-54 is an often overlooked nebula complex just 2° north of the far more famous Eagle Nebula M16. It is actually part of the same nebula complex the stretches from M17 through M16 to Sh2-54 and beyond. The nebula is much fainter, with not much appreciable without a camera attached to the telescope, thus the complex is not as well known.

The star cluster NGC6604 is found within the nebula, a collection of young stars recently formed from these clouds of gas and dust. In the photo here the cluster is seen just down and right of image center.

Again this image is taken through a hydrogen alpha filter to best show the wisps of glowing gas among the stars.

The nebula complex Sharpless 2-54 in Serpens in Hydrogen Alpha
The nebula complex Sharpless 2-54 in Serpens in Hydrogen Alpha

The Lagoon in Hydrogen-Alpha

With summer upon us the central core of the Milky Way galaxy dominates the late evening sky. This allows an astrophotographer a rich selection of targets well placed for shooting all night long.

Among these targets are the large emission nebulae… M17, M16, NGC4628, NGC6334, NGC6357, SH 2-54, and a long list of others. The brightest among these nebulae is M8, the Lagoon nebula, a rich and complex region of star formation, sweeps of gas, and dark globules.

With a new hydrogen-alpha filter added to the camera’s filter wheel it is time to re-image some of these old favorites. The filter is a narrow-band filter allowing through a slice of the spectrum only a few nano-meters wide. The filter pass-band is centered on 656nm deep in the red, the glow of neutral hydrogen gas, this allows sharp images of these glowing nebulae complexes.

M8, The Lagoon Nebula taken in H-alpha light at 656nm
M8, The Lagoon Nebula taken in H-alpha light at 656nm

Nebulae!!