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.Continue reading
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.
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
I originally shot and processed the Bubble Nebula a few nights ago, posting an image with a larger field of view that included M52, the Cassiopeia Salt and Pepper Cluster. From the start I knew I wanted to revisit that data and crop in on the Bubble Nebula itself to see what I could do. This is the result. One of the many new things I learned while processing this in PixInsight was how to do deconvolution. I wouldn’t claim that I’ve mastered it, but I did manage to improve the sharpness of the image using that technique.
Although I’m still a relative newbie to PixInsight, one of the script libraries I use frequently is the EZ Processing Suite. I use it for denoising, stretching, and now also deconvolution. I also use the Weighted Batch Preprocessing script (included with PixInsight) for doing all my calibration and stacking tasks. Seasoned users of PixInsight are already familiar with these scripts, but if you’re a newbie you may not yet have encountered them.
The Ghost Nebula (IC 63) resides in the constellation Cassiopeia, not far from the middle star of the “W” shape that makes Cassiopeia so recognizable in the night sky. I saw someone else’s image of this nebula several days ago on Instagram and decided that I needed to try shooting it for myself. I captured 7 hours of data on this nebula over the course of two nights (using the rest of my time over those nights to capture the Witch’s Broom Nebula). This is once again a narrow-band image using the Optolong L-Extreme dual-band filter, shooting with a ZWO ASI533MC Pro cooled color camera through a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 apo refractor on an iOptron GEM45 mount. Processed using PixInsight, Affinity Photo, and Denoise AI.
After shooting the East Veil Nebula a month or two ago, I wanted to come back to more of the Veil Nebula complex in Cygnus and shoot other parts of it. I love the colors and the wispiness of this nebula, and my narrow-band filter does a fabulous job on it, IMHO. By the time I got back to this target, it was high enough in the sky at dusk that I could only shoot it for about four hours a night. I managed to capture a total of seven hours on this target over the course of two nights. This is once again a narrow-band image using the Optolong L-Extreme dual-band filter, shooting with a ZWO ASI533MC Pro cooled color camera through a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 apo refractor on an iOptron GEM45 mount. Processed using PixInsight, Affinity Photo, and Denoise AI.
Clear skies and a new moon will find me capturing more photons, and a few days ago I was able to collect 8 hours worth of light from the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635), along with the Cassiopeia Salt and Pepper Cluster (M52). This is once again a narrow-band image using the Optolong L-Extreme dual-band filter, shooting with a ZWO ASI533MC Pro cooled color camera through a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 apo refractor on an iOptron GEM45 mount. Processed using PixInsight, Affinity Photo, and Denoise AI.
It’s pretty rare, it seems, that I can actually get 8 hours of good data in a single evening. Only a couple of the subs had satellite trails, and those were fairly minor so I just kept them and relied on the stacking process to get rid of them. N.I.N.A.’s autofocus worked flawlessly during the entire run–I generally let autofocus refocus every 15 images or so. I love it when everything works and the weather cooperates the whole night.
I few nights ago I was able to capture about six hours of good data on the Crescent Nebula, in the constellation Cygnus. This image was captured using my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 apo refractor on an iOptron GEM45 mount with a ZWO ASI533MC Pro one-shot color camera and an Optolong L-Extreme dual-band filter. The image was constructed from 119 3-minute subs plus calibration frames, processed in PixInsight, Affinity Photo, and Denoise AI. A false/pseudo-Hubble color palette was used in processing.
I love all the nebulosity that’s present in this image. One of the challenges of processing this image was to reduce the impact of what is otherwise a pretty intense field of stars. PixInsight provides the Morphology process and also makes use of StarNet++ to help reduce the stars a bit. It doesn’t look much like a crescent to me, though–more like a brain, or as someone else suggested, a cosmic gallstone. Has kind of an eerie look to it, doesn’t it?
Back in March of 2021 I captured an image of the Seagull Nebula. The nebula is actually too large for me to capture in a single frame using my current equipment (A Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 f/5.5 refractor with a ZWO ASI533MC Pro camera) so I split the target into four separate frames and then used Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor (ICE) and Affinity Photo to combine the frames and create the final image. ICE is a really cool tool, capable of stitching together panoramas and mosaics almost effortlessly, and I’ve used it several times for different projects. I’ve also written previously about Affinity Photo and how it’s an excellent general-purpose image processing tool for a modest cost–an excellent alternative to the pricey Photoshop package. But I’m in the process of transitioning to PixInsight as my main tool for processing my astro images–it’s one of the most popular and powerful tools built specifically for astro image processing–and I wanted to learn how to create a mosaic using PixInsight. So I recycled my Seagull Nebula data from March to see what I could do.Continue reading