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Western Veil Nebula

Below, is a wide field photo of the Western Veil Nebula (NGC 6960) through an 80mm refractor telescope.  This area of Cygnus is densely populated with stars and includes regions of heated gas that make up the Cygnus Loop.

To capture the Veil Nebula through astrophotography requires patience, and a specific image processing approach.  NGC 6960 resides in a countless sea of stars that must be tamed before the Western Veil Nebula will emerge.

Western Veil Nebula

NGC 6960 – Western Veil Nebula

NGC 6960 – Western Veil Nebula

The Veil Nebula is a well-known supernova remnant consisting of oxygen, sulfur, and hydrogen gas. It gets its name from it’s long, delicate filamentary structure. The Western Veil Nebula (Caldwell 34) is often referred to as the Witch’s Broom.

Photographed on: July 8, 2014

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
ISO: 1600
Total Exposure: 4 Hours (60 x 240 seconds)
Processing Software: DeepSkyStacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 dark frames

Observing the Western Veil Nebula

This supernova remnant is believed to be produced over 5000 years ago.  The Cygnus Loop contains the Eastern Veil Nebula and additional emission nebulosity of the same composition. This is definitely one of my favorite nebulas to observe visually. Under the right conditions, you can follow the tendrils from end to end.

A telescope with a large aperture is needed, and an OIII filter will help.  The Western Veil Nebula contains a naked-eye star known as 52 Cygni, which will help you locate the nebula with your telescope.

Below, you will see my photo of the Eastern Veil Nebula nearby.  My telescope could not fit both objects in the same field of view.

Compare to the Eastern Veil Nebula (NGC 6992)

Eastern Veil Nebula

NGC 6992 – Part of the Cygnus Loop

Image Processing

This image of the Western Veil Nebula was photographed from a friends house out in the country with darker skies than I am used to from the backyard. The toughest part about processing this image of the Western Veil Nebula was reducing the brightness of the stars that surround the nebula. NGC 6960 is located in a very dense area of the Cygnus constellation.

Western Veil Nebula

An unprocessed single 4-minute frame of NGC 6960

Because the surface brightness of the Veil is relatively low, you must stretch the data in the nebulosity to create the contrast between it and the starry background. I use the “make stars smaller” action found in Noel Carboni’s Astronomy Tools Action Set, and ran the image through multiple iterations of this command.

It is helpful to mask the nebula while performing this action so you do not lose detail in the object itself.

Learn more about Deep Sky Image Processing in Photoshop