26 hours of data on the Iris Nebula

Iris nebula in Cepheus 26 hours of data. By Shawn Nielsen. VisibleDark.ca

Meet the Iris Nebula in Cepheus. Also known as NGC 7023. This image represents 26 hours of data taken over 7 clear nights in May and June 2019. 

The Iris Nebula is approximately 1,300 light years distance from Earth. It resides in the constellation of Cepheus from our perspective. NGC 7023 is actually the cluster within the nebula, designated LBN 487. The nebula is lit by a magnitude +7 star at its core that is visible in this image.

This deep image shows the dark interstellar dust surrounding the nebula and throughout this region of space. Colours and symmetries abound. The Iris Nebula itself invokes thoughts of mystery and magic!

I took this image from my backyard in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Full nights were devoted to capturing the data. For part of the night, the telescope and CCD camera imaged into Bortle 7 sky which is nearing as bad as it gets for light pollution, albeit one step away from the maximum of Bortle 8.

The light pollution emanating from the city itself casts a veil of light that diminishes the ability to see the stars and deep sky objects.

Imaging through light pollution means getting lots of data to try and counter its effects. The other half of the night as the Iris Nebula rises higher into the sky, places it in Bortle 6 sky from my location. I’m located on the outer edge of the city and have overhead sky that isn’t as effected by light pollution and also into the south and west. This helps when imaging faint objects although still not ideal.

I think this is probably the longest I’ve ever imaged one deep sky object. I knew it would be challenging to capture the intergalactic dust in the region and have it pop out given my skies. The Iris nebula itself is more easily captured due to its higher surface brightness. So I was pleased after investing 26 hours of capture time and another 4-5 hours of processing and shooting from a mid-size city, to have this image show the dark dust as well as it does. 

Technical:

Skywatcher Esprit 100 ED APO Triplet
Moravian G3 16200EC CCD
Optolong LRGB filters
Skywatcher EQ6 mount / Skyshed Pier
Pegasus Astro Focus Cube
Orion Starshoot autoguider / PHD2 guiding
Sequence Generator Pro (SGP) for acquistion, PHD2 guiding
Processed in Pixinsight
Seeing and transparency average to good

Narrowband astrophotography from the city!

One of the biggest challenges in astrophotography is dealing with light pollution. This form of environmental pollution caused by unshielded and overly bright exterior lighting, washes out the night sky and makes both seeing and imaging the cosmos difficult and sometimes impossible.

All is not lost though. For those of us living in a mid to large size cities and dealing with light pollution, we can do narrowband astrophotography and get some great results!

Narrowband astrophotography utilizes special filters that only allow a certain wavelength of light to reach the camera sensor. Join me in this video as I talk about astrophotography from the city. Specifically narrowband imaging using H-alpha, Oxygen III and Sulfur II narrowband filters like the Hubble space telescope does! What equipment do you need, what works better monochrome or color camera, how to take narrowband images, a look at some astro images I’ve taken from the city with my telescope and CCD camera and a visit to the telescope store.

Thanks to KWTelescope.com and owner, Brian, for participating in this video!

Special Astro Guest and the Eagle 3 Pro!

a look at primaluca lab Eagle 3 Pro

Welcome to a special video with a special astro guest! Watch as we talk about the new Primaluce Lab Eagle 3 Pro as well as have a look at the Skywatcher Esprit 150 telescope, QHY CCD 16200 and Paramount equatorial mount. I make a visit to his observatory in Guelph, Ontario, Canada where as an astronomy buff, he does his astrophotography using various telescope equipment, imaging the night sky. Come along for a ride with me to his place and check out the new Eagle 3 Pro!

Meet M97 and M108, the Owl and the Surfboard

sLRGB-M97-M108-Shawn_Nielsen-2019

Here’s an interesting pairing in the night sky. Meet M97 planetary nebula and M108 spiral galaxy from the Messier Catalog of deep sky objects. While they look side by side from our perspective here on Earth, M97 is actually 2,600 light years distant while the Surfboard galaxy M108 is a whopping 45 million light years away!

Both M97 and M108 can be found in the constellation of Ursa Major (aka The Big Dipper). They are only 2 degrees away from the bright star Merak in the bowl of the Big Dipper.

In this video above, I’m imaging M97 and M108 with my telescope. Go behind the scenes with me and see how the data is captured using SGP acquisition software and processed in Pixinsight!

Technical:

New NATGEO article: Our nights are getting brighter, and Earth is paying the price

light pollution sky quality meter
light pollution sky quality meter
A Sky Quality Meter measures the nighttime brightness. Images used for educational purposes and copyright their respective owner.

Did you know light pollution is growing each year, faster than any other form of pollution? The invention of the white LED has herald a new wave of energy efficiency that has produced the opposite of what was intended – we are using more artificial light than ever before because LED is cheap and white LED contains a lot of blue light which is harmful to humans and eco systems, including important pollinators.

A new NATGEO article discusses the growing problem of light pollution and how the Earth is paying the price.

light pollution glare light trespass example
Light pollution includes glare and light trespass caused by overly bright and improperly shielded lights. Images used for educational purposes. Copyright their respective owner.

“But if light bulbs have a dark side, it’s that they have stolen the night. The excess light we dump into our environments is endangering ecosystems by harming animals whose life cycles depend on dark. We’re endangering ourselves by altering the biochemical rhythms that normally ebb and flow with natural light levels. And in a primal sense, we’ve lost our connection to nighttime skies, the tapestries into which our ancestors wove their star-studded stories, timed the planting and harvesting of crops, and deduced the physical laws governing the cosmos.”

“The disappearance of the night sky is tied up in our ever more fast-paced world,” says Amanda Gormley of the Tucson-based International Dark-Sky Association. “We lose something essential; we lose a part of ourselves when we lose access to the night sky. We lose that sense of stillness and awe that should be right over our heads every night.”

Of all the types of pollution, light pollution is by far the easiest to fix. Flip the switch to turn off your overnight outdoor lights. Use amber LED (2200K) instead of white 3000K-5000K which are harmful to all living species. Shield lights so that the light is directed where you need it and not up into the night sky. Many stores are now carrying amber LED options and if yours isn’t, then ask the store manager why not and when they can get some of these lights in for you to purchase!

If everyone did their little part, turning off lights, switching to low kelvin LED, shielding outdoor lights, we’d see a meaningful reduction in light pollution and help to prevent climate change further.

To read the full NATGEO on light pollution go here: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/04/nights-are-getting-brighter-earth-paying-the-price-light-pollution-dark-skies/