Capturing The Horsehead Nebula – Barnard 33

Over the last nine months of imaging, I have learned a lot about capturing and processing images. I have also built up a list of targets I want to capture; a list primarily driven by the classic images we’ve all seen before: Andromeda, Orion Nebula and, top of my list, The Horsehead Nebula. For some reason, I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to see the nebula from my backyard due to tree clearance and a neighbour’s house to my south however, I recently noticed it rising on Stellarium when planning another target’s run so I figured I’d give it a go.

I’ve had some issues recently with my QHY163m which has had to go back to China for a repair to the sensor window’s heater and so I’ve been playing around with my modded Canon 100D DSLR instead. The change back down to a DSLR has been notable, especially with the lack of narrowband opportunities. Still, I’m not going to waste any clear nights and so I’ve been re-learning the camera and settings, and imaging a few more obvious targets.

And so to imaging The Horsehead Nebula. I had a clear night last Saturday – almost 12 hours in total so I spent a while gathering more data on Andromeda and having a go at Thor’s Helmet, just to see how it turned out (better than expected but too small for anything other than an experiment). I also planned in 90 minutes on Barnard 33, just to see if I could catch a glimpse of the famous horse’s head back lit by the dramatic red of NGC 2024. I had issues with plate solving and was running out of time when I grabbed a frame that had the nebula in the corner of the frame, and at 90 degrees to where I wanted it. I decided rather than waste any more time, I’d run the sequence and hope I could crop it down.

I ran 20 frames of 240 secs each at ISO 800. These I stacked with 20 darks, and 50 flats and then processed in PixInsight. My processing was minimal as the signal was quite strong – a little noise reduction and then darkening the background with curves, and I was done. I’m really pleased to finally grab my own image of The Horsehead Nebula – it isn’t perfect but I don’t care. I know I can have more time on it as the season progresses.

Full resolution on my Astrobin page: Barnard 33 – The Horsehead Nebula


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