Capturing the Witch Head Nebula in Orion

In early February 2014, I captured the Witch Head Nebula using my camera and telescope. This is a good example of what you can expect to capture using a stock DSLR camera under relatively dark skies. 

IC 2218 is a reflection nebula in the constellation Orion. It is illuminated by the bright star, Rigel, nearby. Rigel is a blue supergiant star that is about 85 times more massive than our Sun. 

While this deep-sky object is quite large, it is very dim and difficult to observe through an astronomical telescope. Through long-exposure astrophotography, the overall shape of this reflection nebula becomes clear. 

IC 2118 - Witch Head Nebula

Above: IC 2118 – The Witch Head Nebula – Imaged Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014
18 subs, 5 Minutes Each totaling 1 Hour, 30 Minutes.

Astrophotography Details:

  • Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
  • Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
  • Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD2 Guiding
  • Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
  • Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
  • ISO: 1600
  • Total Exposure: 1 hour 30 Minutes (18 x 300s)
  • Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in DeepSkyStacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop CC
  • Support Files: 9 Dark Frames

To create the final image, image stacking software was used to combine all of the data, and produce a master file. You can review all of the tools I use to capture and process my astrophotography images on the resources page

Since this image was captured, I have photographed the Witch Head Nebula again using a DSLR camera and a Canon EF 75-300mm lens. While this is a rather cheap camera lens, I was surprised at its potential for astrophotography when a star tracker is used. 

It’s not the cleanest image in the world, but with more overall exposure time, I am confident that a decent image of the Witch Head Nebula is possible with this lens. The project was part of an astrophotography challenge I took on with Nico Carver of NebulaPhotos. 

Photographing IC 2118 with a cheap Canon zoom lens (Canon EF 75-300 F/5.6).

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