Bright and Dark Nebulae of the Milky Way

I think nebulae are generally hard to image, stacking only 20-30sec exposures. They tend to be generally fainter, requiring longer exposures and wider fields of view. So, after almost a decade of imaging with my alt-az mounted 10", I finally doubled down on my next generation of equipment. I decided to upgrade to a 12" on a semi-permanent Paramount MyT mount and a cooled dedicated astronomy camera!

Most of the images shown here were taken unguided, using a 10" LX200R at prime focus, with an OPTEC Lepus 0.62X focal reducer; but moving forward, I anticipate many more with my new setup - still unguided of course! (because who needs that hassle!?)

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LDN1235 (Updated Aug. 5, 2022)

 

Showcasing: LDN1235

LDN1235 - Dark Shark Nebula  by Terry Riopka
Designation: LDN1235
Alternate Name: Dark Shark Nebula
Constellation: Cepheus
Imaging Date: August 5, 2022
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 283 frames@180sec ~ 14.1hrs
Gain Setting: 100
Imaging Device: ZWO ASI2600
Optics: Classic LX200 12" SCT
Focal Reducer: Meade Series 4000 f/6.3
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 30' x 40'
Comment: Only my second dark nebula, this is a beautiful molecular cloud in Cepheus called the Dark Shark Nebula! Although in this case, it's more like the Dark Shark Head Nebula, as with my 12 inch and focal reducer, I could only fit its head into my frame. This part is actually referred to as Lynds Dark Nebula 1235, about 650 light years distant. A blue reflection nebula known as vdB 150 is also visible on the right. There's something to be said about the right tool for the right job... I had to use over 14h worth of subs to get this image! The problem with these beautiful dark nebulae is they need a high degree of contrast for them to stand out against the dark sky, so small fields of view don't do that well; they also make image processing quite challenging.

 

M20

M20 - Trifid Nebula  by Terry Riopka

NGC6888

NGC6888 - Crescent Nebula  by Terry Riopka

NGC1999

NGC1999 - The 13th Pearl Nebula  by Terry Riopka
Designation: M20
Alternate Name: Trifid Nebula
Constellation: Sagittarius
Imaging Date: August 25, 2014
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 78 frames@20sec ~ 26.0min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 28'
Comment: Compare this with my first attempt here. Obviously better focus using my trusty Bahtinov mask! Also, this is the first time that I saw a distinct improvement using dark frames, resulting in a noticeable enhancement in the extended darker rifts of the nebula. In the past, I would simply ignore the dark frames and enhance to get a comparable result. However, in this case, the extended nebulosity (with the frames) seemed to make the subtle dark rifts just jump out more readily.
Designation: NGC6888
Alternate Name: Crescent Nebula
Constellation: Cygnus
Imaging Date: September 22, 2014
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 79 frames@20sec ~ 26.3min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 18' x 12'
Comment: This is an emission nebula, illuminated by a massive, hot Wolf-Rayet star at its center. The complex structure is thought to be the result of a collision between the star's prodigious stellar wind and material ejected from an earlier phase in its evolution. It's expected to ultimately end in a spectacular supernova explosion.
Designation: NGC1999
Alternate Name: The 13th Pearl Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: February 18, 2018
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 79 frames@20sec ~ 26.3min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 1.5' x 1.5'
Comment: This reflection nebula is located about 1500 light years away in Orion and is illuminated by V380 Orionis. It contains a dark T-shaped object was once thought to be a Bok globule - a cold cloud of gas, molecules and cosmic dust, that is so dense it blocks all of the light behind it. However, recent infrared images indicate the shape is likely a hole blown through the nebula itself by energetic young stars. The patch looks black not because it is an extremely dense pocket of gas, but because it is truly empty. The nebula is famous in astronomical history because the first Herbig-Haro object was discovered immediately adjacent to it. Herbig-Haro objects are now known to be jets of gas ejected from very young stars.

NGC2024

NGC2024 - Flame Nebula  by Terry Riopka

NGC7023

NGC7023 - Iris Nebula  by Terry Riopka

M16

M16 - Eagle Nebula  by Terry Riopka
Designation: NGC2024
Alternate Name: Flame Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: March 9, 2015
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 83 frames@20sec ~ 27.7min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 30' x 30'
Comment: Finally got to this nebula! This emission nebula is part of the same molecular cloud as the Horsehead. Apparently, out of the over 800 young stars in the center of this nebula, over 86% have circumstellar disks!
Designation: NGC7023
Alternate Name: Iris Nebula
Constellation: Cepheus
Imaging Date: August 14, 2015
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 78 frames@20sec ~ 26.0min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 18' x 18'
Comment: This is a bright reflection nebula about 1300 light years from Earth. I don't do it justice in this 25 minute exposure - in longer exposures, the wisps of blue nebula stand out in contrast against beautiful dark dust clouds making it resemble an Iris flower. I will definitely revist this stunning object!
Designation: M16
Alternate Name: Eagle Nebula
Constellation: Serpens
Imaging Date: August 29, 2014
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 79 frames@20sec ~ 26.3min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 7'
Comment: The central dark regions have been referred to as the "Pillars of Creation" as imaged by Hubble. This nebula actually does look like an eagle (to me!) with its head to the right and its "wings" extending up and down. Evidence from the Spitzer Telescope suggests that the pillars in M16 may already have been destroyed by a supernova explosion, but we won't actually see the destruction for another 1000 years!

NGC1977

NGC1977 - Running Man Nebula  by Terry Riopka

IC434

IC434 - Horsehead Nebula  by Terry Riopka

B26,B27,B28,vdB31

B26,B27,B28,vdB31 - Dark Nebulae  by Terry Riopka
Designation: NGC1977
Alternate Name: Running Man Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: January 13, 2018
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 79 frames@20sec ~ 26.3min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 20' x 20'
Comment: This is a diffuse reflection nebula, found along the sword of Orion just north of M42, and is located some 1,460 light-years away. Herbig-Haro 45, an area of protostar formation is visible bottom center, and the main center area is divided by darker lanes of red glowing ionized hydrogen gas which resembles a man or ghost. Most of the scattered blue light is caused by several bright young stars – one of them the bright star 42 Ori - and each only 2 to 4 million years old.
Designation: IC434
Alternate Name: Horsehead Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: December 25, 2012
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 87 frames@30sec ~ 43.5min
Gain Setting: ISO 3200
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size:
Comment: I've wanted to photograph this object for over 30 years, ever since seeing it in Burhnam's Celestial Handbook oh so many years ago. I remember naively looking for it on cold winter nights with what was then my new 8 inch Edmund telescope - always defeated, but never daunted by this wondrous enigmatic object. So here it finally is. Only the Horsehead itself is visible here - even *with* a focal reducer this was the largest FOV I could get. This image consists of a grand total of 43.5 minutes exposure over 3 different nights (the last on Christmas night). Not nearly enough, but I was losing patience with the weather lately and decided to put them all together to get this! I am still not done with it - not by a long shot.
Designation: B26,B27,B28,vdB31
Alternate Name: Dark Nebulae
Constellation: Auriga
Imaging Date: January 8, 2021
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 241 frames@180sec ~ 12.1hrs
Gain Setting: 100
Imaging Device: ZWO ASI2600
Optics: Classic LX200 12" SCT
Focal Reducer: Meade Series 4000 f/6.3
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 30' x 17'
Comment: This is my very first dark nebula! With over 12 hours of exposure time using my new cooled ASI2600 camera, it's no wonder I hadn't tackled this object before. This is also my first time processing one in Pixinsight - it was especially important to get the DBE to work right. For that I also incorporated flats for the first time into my workflow to try to limit the vignetting and its effect on the DBE process. I'm still struggling with star halos, but hey, making progress. I even used StarNet for the first time to try processing a starless version of this nebula, then adding the stars back in. The result wasn't bad for a my first time...you can get access to that version here. This is actually a set of three dark nebula: B26, B27 and B28, from Edward E. Barnard's 1919 catalog of dark nebulae. The dark nebulae are all due to the extensive interstellar dust clouds in this region of the sky, which stand out nicely against the background star field. The beautiful blue and yellow reflection nebula is vdB 31, the 31st object in Sidney van den Bergh's 1966 catalog, surrounding the stars AB and SU Aurigae. The hot blue star AB Aurigae is around 470 light years away, which Hubble has shown to be surrounded by a disk of material in the middle of planet formation!

M8

M8 - Lagoon Nebula  by Terry Riopka

NGC6960

NGC6960 - Western Veil Nebula  by Terry Riopka

M17

M17 - Omega Nebula  by Terry Riopka
Designation: M8
Alternate Name: Lagoon Nebula
Constellation: Sagittarius
Imaging Date: June 26, 2015
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 68 frames@20sec ~ 22.7min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 90' x 40'
Comment: My hue was off slightly after processing, but I liked the more bluish, purplish look, so I left the nebula that way. This a beautiful expanse, rivaling the Orion nebula. I was able to get more subtle detail in this image as compared to last time. Progress!
Designation: NGC6960
Alternate Name: Western Veil Nebula
Constellation: Cygnus
Imaging Date: June 15, 2012
Imaging Location: Nantucket
Exposure Time: 18 frames@30sec ~ 9.0min
Gain Setting: ISO 3200
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size:
Comment: I was surprised how easily you can see the Veil...ok maybe not *that* easily, but still...It is so beautiful to see with your own eyes. A deep sky filter especially pulls it right out!
Designation: M17
Alternate Name: Omega Nebula
Constellation: Sagittarius
Imaging Date: August 16, 2012
Imaging Location: Gleasondale
Exposure Time: 17 frames@30sec ~ 8.5min
Gain Setting: ISO 3200
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size:
Comment: This really *does* look like a swan!

NGC6995

NGC6995 - Eastern Veil Nebula  by Terry Riopka

M42

M42 - Orion Nebula  by Terry Riopka

M42

M42 - Orion Nebula  by Terry Riopka
Designation: NGC6995
Alternate Name: Eastern Veil Nebula
Constellation: Cygnus
Imaging Date: October 12, 2015
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 28 frames@20sec ~ 9.3min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size:
Comment: I had to really stretch this image to get the nebula to appear. I also had to eliminate quite a few frames due to poor tracking - a frequent problem for unguided imaging near the zenith!
Designation: M42
Alternate Name: Orion Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: February 10, 2014
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 78 frames@20sec ~ 26.0min
Gain Setting: ISO 800
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 65' x 60'
Comment: Revisiting an old friend! ISO800 and raw frames used this time, with a little better post-processing. Beautiful isn't it?
Designation: M42
Alternate Name: Orion Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: December 11, 2011
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 1 frames@20sec ~ 0.3min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel XS
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 65' x 60'
Comment: One of my first ever digital astrophotos! Amazing what a single 20sec exposure can get you!

MilkyWay

MilkyWay - Sagittarius Star Clouds  by Terry Riopka

M42

M42 - Orion Nebula  by Terry Riopka

M8

M8 - Lagoon Nebula  by Terry Riopka
Designation: MilkyWay
Alternate Name: Sagittarius Star Clouds
Constellation: Sagittarius
Imaging Date: June 14, 2012
Imaging Location: Nantucket
Exposure Time: 1 frames@33sec ~ 0.6min
Gain Setting: ISO 3200
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: 35mm
Focal Reducer: none
Filter: none
Apparent Size:
Comment: It's hard to believe this is simply a 35mm camera shot (piggybacked on my Meade of course)! You can make out a number of nebulae and clusters. And who would have thought you'd get such colors? I am so happy that after 30 years of observing the stars, I am still thrilled by views like this!
Designation: M42
Alternate Name: Orion Nebula
Constellation: Orion
Imaging Date: January 28, 2012
Imaging Location: Concord
Exposure Time: 30 frames@20sec ~ 10.0min
Gain Setting: ISO 1600
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel XS
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 65' x 60'
Comment: I used to be so proud of this image...my first long exposure deep sky object! My images and technique have improved considerably since then, but it does go to show you how much you can do with almost zero experience and JPG images for stacking! My most recent attemptis somewhat improved.
Designation: M8
Alternate Name: Lagoon Nebula
Constellation: Sagittarius
Imaging Date: June 14, 2012
Imaging Location: Nantucket
Exposure Time: 18 frames@30sec ~ 9.0min
Gain Setting: ISO 3200
Imaging Device: Canon Rebel T3i
Optics: LX200R 10" SCT
Focal Reducer: Optec Lepus 0.62X
Filter: none
Apparent Size: 90' x 40'
Comment: This is a stunning object to see through a telescope, comparable to the Orion nebula!

 

 

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Last Updated: Aug. 6, 2022

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