Horsehead and Flame Nebulae in Orion – 04/01/2014

Horsehead Platesolved

Image Plate Solved – Click to Enlarge

The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae in Orion - Click to Enlarge

The Horsehead and Flame Nebulae in Orion – Click to Enlarge

I’ve finally got my first image of my favourite set of objects in the entire sky – the Horsehead nebula (IC 434) and Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) complex in Orion.   These objects are part of a large complex of nebulae throughout Orion.  However, as a photographic target, I think this area is one of the finest in the heavens.  Te large star in the centre is Altinak, which is the left-most star of Orion’s belt (if you’re in the northern Hemesphere).

It was taken with my astro-modded Canon EOS 1100D, with Astronomik CLS filter for light pollution reduction.  It’s the result of 24x 4 minute exposures at ISO 800, totalling 96 minutes of exposure time.  It was taken through the Revelation 80mm f/6 semi-apo refractor, mounted on the HEQ5 pro, and guided using my finder guider equipped with QHY5v via PHD.  It was processed in Deep Sky Stacker, including Dark, Flat and Bias frames, and stretched and fiddled with in Photoshop, then finished off in Lightroom, and cropped slightly to balance the composition.

This is the result of several firsts.

i) The first light of my Astronomik CLS light pollution filter.

ii) The first (proper) light of my Canon 1100D astro-modded camera

iii) The first time I’ve collected over an hour of data for a single image.

I’m extremely happy with the result.  I’m so glad I’ve finally been able to image this object that has been elusive to me ever since I started astronomy about 25 years ago.

People are often amazed at what data is in the frames once the processing is done.  Just out of interest, below is a single 4-minute exposure from the imaging session.  It’s only when 24 of these were combined, and then the result was ‘stretched’ to bring out the dynamic range of the image, that the end result came near…

Horsehead single sub CLS

A single Sub-Frame from the imaging session that produced the picture at the top. Click to Enlarge.

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4 Responses

  1. David Coyle says:

    Superb image, I have just had my 1100d modded and this image has just confirmed my
    decision. I have not had a chance to use it yet, and now I cant wait.

    • Adam says:

      I would 100% recommend having your camera modded. It definitely makes a big difference.

      You’ll have good results with that one 🙂

  2. Noah4x4 says:

    This page has been a great help to me!

    I have had three attempts at the Horsehead/Flame with my new Atik Horizon and my subs encouragingly look like the single sub frame that you have posted. Each time I have started with about 30% cloud then been overwhelmed by 99% persistent clouds after little more than ten minutes. The weather has been shocking and inconsistent for at least three months (north Essex). But that is only the headline to my experience….

    I see you stacked 24 x 4 minutes. I have Hyperstar so should be able to use somewhat shorter exposures, but it’s clear that I need to spend far longer on this target. What has been throwing me is that whilst my Horsehead/Flame images have not improved from stacking the subs, I have still been able to see (say) the Orion Nebula on screen despite the cloud completely obscuring all of of Orion’s stars to the naked eye and only nearby super bright Sirius peeping through the soup.

    It’s a peril of having a fully wireless EAA set up whereby I view using a remote laptop in warm ‘mission control’. The clouds then creep up on me unknowingly; I blame the software; waste another ten minutes remotely flitting between bright and dim objects trying to work out what is going on; then the bright objects haze over; then I step outside to find I can see zilch with the naked eye and cry! The Orion Nebula images were stacked before complete obliteration by cloud. There is something to be said in favour of freezing your wotsits off outside where one can monitor conditions with the naked eye, but I do like being able to enjoy video astronomy in my cosy warm office (properly converted garage).

    • Adam says:

      Thanks Noah! I’ve actually redone this target recently, and got what I feel is a better final result. I’ll be posting soon, but that particular one is only 11x 5min exposures, so you can definitely get decent results without a massive amount of data (though obviously, as always, the more the better!) I find this is one object that there’s massive difference on when stacked – strange you’re not finding the same. What stacking software are you using?

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