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Photograph the North America Nebula

The North America Nebula (Cataloged as NGC 7000) is a large emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus.  The shape of this nebula looks a lot like the continent it was named after and covers an area of more than four times the size of the full moon.

The image below shows where to find the North America Nebula in Cygnus near the bright star, Deneb.  The image on the right was captured in H-Alpha using a filtered DSLR Camera in my backyard.

How to find the North America Nebula

The North America Nebula can be found in Cygnus near Deneb

NGC 7000 is a well-photographed astrophotography target, using a wide-field telescope, or a camera lens attached to a DSLR.  The bright red hydrogen gas emitted from the North America Nebula, particularly around the Cygnus wall make it a well sought-after image for backyard astronomers.

The image below was taken using a Canon DSLR camera and an 80mm Refractor telescope.

North America Nebula

NGC 7000 – The North America Nebula

NGC 7000 – North America Nebula

Date Photographed: September 27, 2014

Total Exposure Time: 2 Hours, 45 Minutes (35 x 5 Minute Subs @ ISO 1600)
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ-5 Pro Synscan
Camera: Modified Canon Xsi (450D)
Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 Triplet Apo

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

If you are curious to know how to photograph the North America Nebula yourself, the first step I would take is to make sure that your telescope has a wide focal length.  The 80mm telescope used for the photo above had a focal length of 480mm, which was wide enough to capture the entire object.

Most telescopes will crop the target, meaning you will need to decide which portion of NGC 7000 you want to capture. Alternatively, you can use a camera lens in place of the telescope to produce your desired framing.

Photo using a DSLR and Camera Lens

The image below was captured using a Canon T3i/600D DSLR (full spectrum modified) and a Canon EF 24-105mm F/4L Lens.  The lens was set to its maximum focal length of 105mm to produce the scale of the image.  At this scale, the Pelican Nebula is also in view to the right of NGC 7000.

A wide field view that includes the Pelican Nebula

A wide field view including the Pelican Nebula

Several 2-minute exposures (at ISO 800) were stacked together using DeepSkyStacker, followed by further image processing in Adobe Photoshop.  The DSLR camera was mounted to an iOptron SkyGuider Pro tracking mount to compensate for the rotation of the Earth.

The final image included 3 Hours and 12 minutes of total exposure time from my light polluted backyard in Ontario.  A Skytech CLS-CCD filter was used to help reduce the city glow and capture more contrast in the nebula.  This is an efficient Canon astrophotography filter that clips into the camera body over the sensor.

Here is a view of this target using 300mm Camera Lens:

Astrophotography with a 300mm Camera Lens

Image scale using a 300mm Camera Lens

Learning Astrophotography

This image did not happen overnight

I have imaged this nebula many times before, and my astrophotography skills improved each year.  The timeline below shows my progress on NGC 7000 over the years.

learning astrophotography

My astrophotography progression with the North America Nebula

The DSLR camera 300mm Lens used to photograph the “medium-sized view” of this Nebula can be seen on the right in this picture.  The camera was controlled using a remote shutter release cable to continuously capture 120-second exposures.

Backyard astrophotography

Astrophotography from the backyard


What’s in the sky tonight? (EarthSky)

NGC 7000 in Narrowband (Light Vortex Astronomy)

A Road Map to the North America Nebula (Sky and Telescope)