Category Archives: nebulae

Simeis 57 – Propeller Nebula in Cygnus

The Propeller Nebula (Simeis 57) in Cygnus - 7hrs ExposureI had opportunity on the 19th/20th September 2017 to add another 3h40m of exposure to my previous image of the Propeller Nebula (Simeis 57/ DWB111/119) – see “A Crescent and A Propeller” for the previous version. Here is the reprocessed version of the data, taken through an H Alpha filter, which is centered at RA: 20h 16m 08s, DEC: +43° 40′ 42″ (plate-solve from

Simeis 57 - Annotated with Simbad query resultsThe extra time on this subject has brought out some of the fainter background nebulosity and enhanced dark nebulae in the field. The image at left is an annotated image (using the Image Solver and Annotate Image scripts in Pixinsight). As shown, the Propeller itself is catalogued as DWB111 (south) and DWB 119 (north), with DWB118 representing the surrounding nebulosity, with DWB 108 further to the south below the southern “prop”. There are a few catalogued dark nebulae in the field – Dobashi 2501; Dobashi 2511/TGU H469 P16 which sits between DWB118 and DWB 107 (off field to lower left); and TGU H469 P18 to the west of the main nebula. 

All data was taken from West Oxfordshire on 9th/10th and 19th/20th September. William Optics FLT110 @f5.6 on a Losmandy Titan, SBIG ST2000XM CCD and an Astrodon 5nm HA filter.

A Crescent and A Propeller

Two nights of H-Alpha deep-sky imaging recently and in both cases this had the advantage of allowing imaging despite a bright moon being present.

This was also the first time I got to use a new adaptor which connects the threaded drawtube of the FLT110 to the corrector/reducer. This appears to have reduced the amount of vignetting present and potentially dealt with a source of internal reflections, but more importantly it has eliminated a potential source of flexture by removing the 2″ nosepiece from the imaging train.   

The Crescent Nebula (NGC6888) in CygnusThe first image is of the Crescent Nebula (NGC6888) in Cygnus (image centered at RA 20h 12m 08s, Dec +38° 19′ 44″). The Crescent is an example of a Wolf Rayet nebula – the bright star HD192163 (also WR136, centre) is a massive star nearing the end of its short life. When becoming a red supergiant several hundred thousand years ago, it blasted away a shell of material weighing about 5 times the mass of our sun. This shell of material is impacted by the fast stellar wind, and excited by X-rays from the star’s surface, causing the glowing shell of gas we see today.  

The image above consists of 11 x 20min exposures taken on the night of the 8th/9th September 2017, using an ST2000XM, WO FLT110 at f5.6 and an Astrodon HA filter. These were all taken with the moon at ~85%, which shows that the H-Alpha filter did a great job of filtering out the unwanted moonlight, and letting the required wavelengths pass. 

The Propeller Nebula (Simeis 57) in CygnusThe second image is another region in Cygnus containing Simeis 57, the Propeller Nebula (image centred at RA 20h 16m 05s,
Dec +43° 41′ 05″). This is often mislabelled as DWB111, whereas that is only the southern (lower) half of the “propeller” (the other half is DWB119). Not a lot is known about the nebula – there isn’t a definitive distance, though it’s suspected that it is reasonably nearby, and it’s somewhat odd that given it’s distinctive shape and the fact it is reasonably bright in comparison to the surroundings, that it wasn’t included on other catalogues such as Sharpless-2. 

This image was 3h20min total (10x20min subexposures) with the same equipment as above taken on 10th/11th September 2017. These again were taken with the moon at ~75% full.  This could probably do with more exposure to help reduce the noise in the fainter regions (which are a bit marginal here), but cloud stopped play in the early morning for this one. 


M78 – Reflection, Dust and Star Birth in Orion

Field Centred at (plate-solve by
RA: 05h 46m 40.4s
Dec: +00° 12′ 10.2″
North is up

M78 in Orion in LRGBOrion is a rich area for deep-sky objects, and it’s somewhat of a shame that M78 is so often overlooked, with the Orion Nebula, Horsehead and Flame taking centre stage.

There are three main areas of reflection nebulosity present here, the larger, bluer of which (M78 itself) is illuminated by the stars HD 38563A/38563B and appears split in two by an obscuring dark dust lane. The area of nebulosity to the west (right) of M78 itself is catalogued as NGC 2064 and NGC 2067, though, the actual catalogue designations become hard to follow as the whole region shows nebulosity that merges into one combined region…

The smaller area of nebulosity to the north (NGC 2071) is illuminated by HD 290861 and is encompassed by further blue reflection nebula. It is also surrounded by the continuation of the sinuous dust lane.

Herbig Haro 22, 24 & McNeil's Nebula
Herbig Haro 22, 24 & McNeil’s Nebula

The dust in this image hides a lot of hidden activity – some of which is revealed in the image and is highlighted in the crop (displayed at 200%) – this shows Herbig-Haro 22 and 24 along with McNeil’s Nebula (top-centre). Within these regions, newly born stars start to illuminate gas around their birthplace, while jets of material from these stars collide with surrounding gas and dust.

T Tauri type stars are also found in these dusty regions. These are stars that do not have a core hot enough to trigger hydrogen fusion (but may burn lithium), and are not yet in hydrostatic equilibrium, whereby gravitational forces are balanced by outward pressure due to heat from within the star. Heat is produced by gravitational contraction during this intermediate phase between a true protostar and a main sequence star. It does offer a look back in time to a phase our own sun would have passed through before the formation of the solar system  from the solar nebula.

Bernes 100
Bernes 100

Finally, to the top (north) of the image, we start to see a large area of HII emission that merges into Barnard’s Loop. Within this, there is an interesting bright nebula near HD 290857 with only one reference that I’ve been able to find through Simbad. The reference comes from a 1977 paper, “A catalogue of bright nebulosities in opaque dust clouds” (Bernes C., 1977A&AS…29…65B), and as such the nebula gets the classification Be 100 (listed as [B77] 100 in Simbad). The nebula (shown) forms part of the much larger L1630 molecular cloud.

Image was taken using William Optics FLT110 with FLAT4 reducer; SBIG ST2000XM; Losmandy Titan with Gemini 2. 

L: 6h45m (21x15m + 9x10m)
R: 3h (18x10m, 2×2 bin)
G: 2h30m (15x10m, 2×2 bin)
B: 2h20m (14x10m, 2×2 bin)

Reduction and processing in Pixinsight and Photoshop CS4. 

Images acquired Nov/Dec 2016 from Oxfordshire, UK.

Bubble Nebula + M52; Equipment Updates

The past few months have seen some changes to my equipment – unfortunately the biggest (or most expensive) change was due to my original Gemini 1 controller dying. The mount is back in action after I upgraded to a Gemini 2 from Losmandy via an existing owner trade-in. Good news is that the mount appears to be working well, though still needs PEC sorting and full building of pointing models.

I’ve also got a 0.8x reducer/flattener for the William Optics FLT110 (this is the latest model of the William Optics FLAT4 reducer), allowing me a larger field of view on the SBIG ST2000X, a flatter, faster field, and also the ability to mount a recently acquired, astro-modded Canon 350d on there as well – I look forward to trying to image the Pleiades and the Orion Nebula using a sensitive, wide field arrangement this winter… I also have started to use Pixinsight for processing images; while it’s been a learning curve for me, I feel I’m starting to get somewhere in using it, and think it could be a very powerful tool.

Bubble Nebula (NGC7635) & M52I have managed to put the new kit to use already: after tuning the spacing for the CCD camera, I managed to take a lot of sub-frames of the Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635) and M52. The image shown is in H-Alpha (using the Astrodon 5nm filter) and consists of 7hrs total in 20min subframes (at -20C). 

The Bubble itself is a large  (~7 light year) void formed by the action of the fierce stellar wind from a hot, highly luminous Wolf-Rayet star. This star also causes excitation of the surrounding nebula, giving us the H-Alpha light we image here. M52 is the open cluster to the bottom right, with Czernik 43 the slightly looser open cluster to the right of the image. The nebulosity to the bottom left is part of the larger region SH2-158, and the smaller areas of nebulosity to the top centre-left of the frame is the not often referenced planetary nebula KjPn8 (though this is quite faint here and needs a bit more magnification, and a lot more data to pull out well!)

Field is centred at: 
RA: 23h 22m 29.0s
Dec: +61° 19′ 07.7″
Up is 0.71 degrees E of N
(plate-solve from

M42, The Orion Nebula in H-Alpha (work in progress)

RA (centre): 05h 35m 10.9s
Dec (centre): -05° 28′ 54.4″
(Results from

On February 10th, I managed to get some first data on a project in imaging the Orion Nebula with the FLT110/ST2000-XM combo. I had a fair bit of equipment issues here before starting – I have changed scope and was trying a newer PC. I had issues in getting the computer to connect to the ASCOM focuser and so resorted to an old laptop, thus wasting time.

I also had some guiding issues with PEC on – I think this is related to balance (the mount should have been more weighted towards the east) – and not to mention the object skirting the trees resulting in some spurious guiding results and the loss of 6 frames…

Finally (!), it became apparent when doing the flats that there was frosting on the chip – I’m not sure if this was the case before (though it doesn’t show), but this did mean I needed to run the flats at 2C, rather than -20C like the lights.

Even so, results are encouraging – this is the result of 27 x 3min with an Astrodon 6nm filter – this is one of the older narrowband range filters – running at -20C at f7. This needs much more data, as well as luminosity and colour channels to allow me to merge it into an L/Ha-Ha/R,G,B image  – the fainter regions are fairly noisy, which is not helped by short exposure, and the introduction of noise from the warmer flats, and dark frames for the flats.

Processing objects like the Orion nebula is always a little tricky, and I’ve tried to tame the vast dynamic range here by using luminosity masks in Photoshop (with four differently processed versions of the same image) to preserve the detail within the Trapezium, while also allowing me to bring out outer detail. If I can get a good enough night to get more data, I should be able to further blend in more data for the outside regions (possibly by using longer subs). The RGB combine should be interesting, and might need a bit of pushing of the H-Alpha data as it does get a bit diluted in the process.

M4, The Orion Nebula in H-Alpha - work in progress