The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae

I was happy to get a few clear nights after the new moon to capture another image, this time the Horsehead and Flame nebulae in the constellation Orion. I was able to use 107 3-min exposures to create the image you see here. It was taken using my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 apo refractor on an iOptron GEM45 mount, this time using my new Starizona Apex ED-L 0.65x reducer (so the effective focal ratio for this image was f/3.6). The image was captured using my ASI533MC Pro camera with an Optolong L-Pro filter.

Processing of the image was done using PixInsight, with some final tweaks and cleanup using Affinity Photo and Topaz Labs Sharpen AI. I also used Starnet++ V2 for knocking down the impact of the stars. The stars were prominent enough in the original image that the structure of the nebular regions was significantly obscured. It was only after I used Starnet++ V2 to remove the stars that the structure became prominent.

This image posed some challenges when trying to knock down the stars, due to the presence of the half-dozen or so very bright stars and associated nebulosity (and halos). I ended up masking those bright stars in PixInsight before applying Starnet++ so that they would remain in the otherwise starless image. I didn’t try to remove or reduce the star halos–I rather like the look of them.

Contrast this image with the one I took over a year ago, with a Canon DSLR and less knowledge and experience:

My first attempt at the Horsehead nebula

Decide for yourself which you like better.

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