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NGC 7023 – The Iris Nebula

Iris Nebula - NGC 7023

The Iris Nebula – Shot in Summer 2012

NGC 7023 – The Iris Nebula

Photographed on: August 18, 2012

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Celestron ASCG-5
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
ISO: 1600
Total Exposure: Approx. 3 Hours, 30 Minutes (35 x 210 seconds + 25 x 240 seconds)
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 dark frames

Guided with PHD Guiding
Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Adobe Photoshop CC


Image Processing Notes:

I tried to achieve a pleasing balance between the brightness of that gorgeous interstellar dust, and the background of space and stars.  The dusty areas block out starlight behind them, and a I absolutely love this image because of that feature.  However, by pulling out those faint details, background noise is introduced.  I used selective processing to separate the nebula from the background, so I could process them independently.  Honestly, I think 2 more hours worth of light on this subject are needed to properly process this image to it’s true potential.


Setting Up Astrophotography Gear

Setting up my gear to shoot the Iris Nebula

About the Iris Nebula

The Iris Nebula is cataloged as NGC 7023, and resides in the constellation Cepheus.  It is a bright reflection nebula with an estimated distance of 1,300 light years away from Earth.  NGC 7023 is actually the star cluster within the nebula, but the cluster and the reflection nebula are one in the same.  The nebula gets it’s trademark glowing blue appearance thanks to SAO 19158, the star responsible for lighting it up.  An interesting characteristic of this object is the intense interstellar dust that surrounds NGC 7023, clearly blocking out the stars behind it.   You can find this deep-sky treasure in your telescope Southeast of Alfirk, and North of Alderamin.  Please use the star-map below as a reference.

Iris Nebula location on Star Map

Location of the Iris Nebula in Cepheus – Sky and Telescope Star Map

Imaging all summer long

This wide field view of the Iris Nebula was captured in the summer of 2012.  It is a very popular target for astrophotography because of its brilliance and location in the night sky.  I spent almost 3 straight months acquiring photos of the Iris Nebula whenever I had the chance.  I remember driving to my dark sky location at midnight on a weekday at one point.  I was obsessed with collecting as much light on the Iris Nebula as possible.  At the time, I was using an entry-level astrophotography tracking mount; the Celestron CG-5. (Now called the Celestron Advanced VX Equatorial Mount)  It was the “Advanced Series GT” model, although I am not sure what the differences were between this mount, and the basic CG-5.  Either way, it was my first German Equatorial Mount, and it got the job done!

You can view the current astrophotography equipment I use to photograph deep-sky objects with my DLSR camera here, or view my entire gallery of images here.  For my latest images and updates, please follow me on Facebook!