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IC 2118 – Witch Head Nebula

IC 2118 - Witch Head Nebula


IC 2118 – The Witch Head Nebula

Complete Photo Settings and Equipment Used listed below


This is a heavy crop, framed up to show the “Witch Head”. IC 2118 is believed to be an ancient supernova or gas cloud illuminated by nearby supergiant star Rigel in Orion. This is an extremely faint winter deep-sky object in the constellation Orion.  The toughest part about imaging this subject is confirming that your target is in the center of the frame.  This nebula is so faint that you may not even see it in your test frames, until you bring it into photoshop and adjust the curves. I have created a graphic below to illustrate just how faint this reflection nebula really is.


IC 2118 Nebula in Orion

Can you find the Witch Head in the first frame?


Astrophotography Tip:

How to locate and frame your deep-sky target under light-polluted skies


In the early stages of your astro-imaging session, bring your first long exposure image into Adobe Photoshop to confirm that the faint details of the deep sky object are well framed.  By performing a quick levels and curves adjustment, you will be able to see a preview of what your final image will end up like.  You must have a copy of Adobe photoshop installed on your field laptop of course. I use an old version (CS3) that I keep installed on that machine for that exact purpose.  This is especially helpful when photographing a dim object from a light-polluted area, as it will be hard to pick the subject out of the heavy pink sky.


Using the eyedropper tool, set the grey point on your image to separate the DSO from the sky. Follow-up with a quick levels adjustment – slide the left hand slider in towards the data on the histogram. You should start to see some of the faint details of your subject at this point. You can also perform a quick curves adjustment to pull the details out even further.  Chances are, this single frame will now how a horrible gradient around the edges, and be a noisy mess.  The purpose of this quick test is just to make sure you have framed up the object properly.  Make any adjustments to your framing based on your preview.


Find IC 2118

IC 2118: Photo Details:

Photographed on: February 19, 2014

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Sky-watcher 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: 1 Hour, 30 Minutes (18 x 5 minute frames)
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


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