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The Flaming Star Nebula in Auriga

The Flaming Star Nebula is lit by the nearby AE Aurigae in the constellation Auriga. Cataloged as IC 405, this glowing emission and reflection nebula lies approximately 1,500 light years from Earth. 

The Flaming Star Nebula is bright enough to be observed and photographed through a small telescope under the right conditions. IC 405 is an exquisite astrophotography target due to it’s unique composition and combination of colors.

The Flaming Star Nebula

The Flaming Star Nebula captured using DSLR camera and small telescope. 

The hydrogen emission gas makes up the “flame” of IC 405, while the blue reflection nebula resembles smoke. The Flaming Star Nebula spans about 5 light years across, with an apparent visual magnitude of +6.

The rippling dust and gas lanes of red and blue are what give the Flaming Star Nebula it’s name. The intensely bright star AE Aurigae is so hot that it is blue, and emits energetic light that knocks electrons away from the surrounding gas.

The Flaming Star Nebula

  • Nebula type: Emission/Reflection Nebula
  • Distance: 1,500 light years
  • Apparent Magnitude: +6
  • Constellation: Auriga
  • Designations: IC 405, Caldwell 31, Sharpless 229

Another nebula lies very close to the Flaming Star Nebula, IC 410 (The Tadpoles). Using a DSLR camera and wide field camera lens, we can capture both nebulae at once.

The following astrophotography image was captured using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera, with a 24-105mm F/4L lens attached. The camera lens was set to its longest focal length, 105mm.

IC 405 and IC 410 wide field

The Flaming Star Nebula and Tadpole Nebula in H-Alpha.

From our vantage point on Earth, open star clusters M36 and M36 are not far away from the Flaming Star Nebula in Auriga. A wide angle camera lens can capture the entire constellation of Auriga in a single shot, including IC 405, IC 410, and both star clusters.

The reason this photo is in black and white, is because it was photographed using a 12nm narrowband hydrogen alpha filter. This isolates the H II gas in nebulas IC 405 and IC 410.

When photographing emission nebula in heavy light pollution, it is helpful to use narrowband filters that block out all wavelengths of light except for those of a specific bandpass. An h-alpha filter is arguably the most useful narrowband filter for a DSLR camera.

types of ha filters available

Click here to see the exact H-Alpha filter I used with my DSLR camera.

Each exposure was 3-minutes long, using ISO 1600. The camera lens was set to its maximum aperture of F/4 to collect as much signal in each exposure as possible.

20 x 180-second exposures were stacked using DeepSkyStacker to create a final image with an improved signal-to-noise ratio. Dark calibration frames were used to reduce noise in the final integration.

Because a lightweight camera and lens were used, I was able to to use a portable tracking mount to compensate for the apparent movement of the night sky.

The iOptron SkyTracker Pro is a handy camera mount for astrophotography that can help you take long exposure images of the night sky without star trailing.

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