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NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula

The Pacman Nebula is a cosmic cloud of space gas located in the constellation Cassiopeia.  NGC 281 gets its name from the classic video game character it resembles. Many people think that this nebula resembles a heart, which you can clearly see in my recent image in HaRGB.

The photo below is my most recent capture of the Pacman nebula, using an Altair Hypercam 183C astrophotography camera.  Images in both true-color RGB and H-Alpha were combined to produce this 5+ hour long exposure.

astrophotography camera

NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula

For this image, an Explore Scientific ED102 telescope was used, with an Altair Lightwave 0.8X flattener/reducer.  It is nice to see this object in all its glory using my modern image processing techniques and equipment.

Years back, the Pacman Nebula did not look so vibrant, as I photographed it using a stock Canon EOS 450D camera in RGB only.

The Pacman Nebula with a Stock DSLR

The version of the Pacman nebula seen below was captured using my Canon 450D DLSR before it was modified.  It’s a good representation of what to expect with an unmodified DSLR.

NGC 281 - Pacman Nebula

The Pacman nebula is a great candidate for my next narrowband Ha filter project.  This area of the night sky is densely populated with stars that make processing this DSO a challenge.

The most beautiful portraits of NGC 281 were usually captured using filters to separate the different wavelengths of light this nebula emits.  An H-Alpha filter should do a great job at taming the sea of stars surrounding the nebula, and improve overall contrast.

The Pacman Nebula in Narrowband – APOD

About the Pacman Nebula

Cassiopeia is one of my favorite constellations because of its convenient position in the sky, and the sheer amount of deep-sky objects located within it.  The Pacman nebula contains an open cluster of stars cataloged as IC 1590.  The young, massive stars in this open cluster create the glow that lights up NGC 281.

A deeper view of this nebula will reveal intensely sculpted columns of nebulosity and several bok globules.

Where is the Pacman Nebula located?

pacman nebula location


You’ll find NGC 281 in the Northeast corner of Cassiopeia.  Locate the bright star, Shedir in the “W” asterism, and travel south to a star slightly dimmer known as Achird.  This large faint and very diffuse nebula appears extremely dim visually and makes for a challenging observation.

NGC 281 – The Pacman Nebula

Stock DSLR Version – Photography Details

Photographed on: November 3, 2013

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Stock)
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 2 hours (24 x 300s)
Processing Software: Calibration and Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 darks

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

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