After monkeying around with PixInsight, trying to figure out the best way to process my narrowband data, I finally found a recipe that’s repeatable, and I created a video to share it with other narrowband newbies. This isn’t a PixInsight tutorial–you need to already be familiar with PixInsight. But if you already know PixInsight, it’ll help you with how to combine three grayscale master lights (one each for H-alpha, SII, and OIII) into a single RGB image using the Hubble palette. I doubt there are any new tricks here for anyone who already has narrowband experience, but for newbies it might be worth a watch.

The Elephant’s Trunk Nebula (IC1396)

My second attempt at narrow-band SHO imaging was the Elephant’s Trunk Nebula, IC1396. I’m pretty pleased with the way this one turned out. This go round I shot 10-minute subs instead of 5-minute subs. I was able to shoot a total of 22.5 hours of data (7.5 hours for each of my Optolong narrowband filters–hydrogen-alpha (7 nm), sulfur-II (6.5 nm), and oxygen-III (6.5nm)–through my mono camera, the ZWO ASI533MM Pro. I shot through my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 refractor on its iOptron GEM45 mount.

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The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), imaged using a Sky-Watcher Evolux 62ED on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer GTi mount.

In retirement, my wife and I plan to do some traveling in our Jayco Class C RV, especially during the winter months when we can temporarily relocate to someplace a bit warmer than the Colorado mountains. However, the winter months are the best time of the year for astrophotography, and I wasn’t thrilled about missing the opportunity for some prime imaging. I decided that it would be a good idea to put together a more portable setup for astrophotography–something that could ride along with us without taking up too much space or weight. When Sky-Watcher announced their new full-goto star tracker, the Star Adventurer GTi, I resolved to give it a go.

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The Cygnus Wall in the North American Nebula (NGC7000), in SHO.

After a long summer of short, cloudy evenings, I’m finally back at shooting astrophotographs. In the spring I picked up a new mono camera, the ZWO ASI533MM Pro, and a set of Optolong narrowband filters for hydrogen-alpha (7 nm), sulfur-II (6.5 nm), and oxygen-III (6.5nm). I also picked up the ZWO mini filter wheel so I could automate my filter changes. Last week I finally got them all out for some shooting, and I spent three nights shooting subs of the Cygnus Wall, a star formation region of the North American Nebula (NGC7000) in the constellation Cygnus.

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The Pinwheel Galaxy (M101)

This past week I finally received the brand-new ASI533MM Pro cooled monochrome camera from ZWO. After having used its color brother (the ASI533MC Pro) for over a year now, I was excited when ZWO announced the monochrome version a few months ago. Mine finally arrived, and all I needed was a decent night with clear skies to give it a try. Monochrome imaging is something I hadn’t attempted before, and I was eager to give it a shot.

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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.

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The Heart Nebula.

After a two-month layoff, I was finally able to try out my new Starizona Apex ED-L 0.65x focal reducer with my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 refractor. This combination increased my field of view enough that I was able to capture the entire Heart Nebula, and this is the result. The Apex reducer seems to have done a good job at least over the field of view captured by my ZWO ASI533MC Pro camera. The Apex is supposed to handle sensors up to the size of APS-C, but I haven’t been able to test that–yet.

This image was captured with an Optolong L-eXtreme filter and consists of 60 5-minute subs, plus calibration frames. Processed using PixInsight with StarNet++ version 2.0, along with Affinity Photo and Topaz Sharpen AI.

The heart of the Heart Nebula (IC1805)

I tried imaging the Heart Nebula about a year ago, when I first started shooting astrophotographs. At that time, I was using an unmodified Canon DSLR (the 250D), and I was still pretty inexperienced in processing my astro data. Unsurprisingly, the result was not great, and I was gun shy about trying to shoot it again. But I gave it a shot again a few days ago, this time armed with a dedicated astro camera (the ASI533MC Pro color camera), an L-Extreme dual-narrow-band filter, and a lot more experience processing images (as well as PixInsight now being in my toolbox). I’m much more pleased with my result this time around.

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The Wizard Nebula, NGC 7380

The Wizard Nebula is a region of glowing gases (nebulosity) around a cluster of stars known as NGC 7380 (NGC = New General Catalog). The gases are primarily hydrogen and oxygen and glow because they are ionized–ultraviolet light from the nearby stars imparts energy to the electrons in the gases, sometimes resulting in the electrons being stripped from the gas atom’s nucleus. The electrons will ultimately recombine with the atoms and give off their excess energy in the form of the light that we see.

The Wizard Nebula is thought to be 5 – 10 million years old. It is 20 light years across and lies a distance of about 8500 light years from us. It lies in the constellation Cepheus, which is in the northern region of the sky.

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