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California Nebula

California Nebula Imaged with Modified 450D

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California Nebula

NGC 1499 – The California Nebula by Trevor Jones


Canon Rebel Xsi – Recently Modified 450D

I am proud  to say that I am now the owner of a Modified 450D.  My recentself-modification has really helped bring out the colour of this Emission Nebula.  If you are interested in modding your own Canon Xs or XSi, you can find the tutorial from Gary Honis below. The photo above was taken on the night of October 25th under clear skies in Wellandport, Ontario. I feel like I want to shoot every deep-sky object over again now that my camera records so much more red nebulosity!  I am excited to image some of the Winter objects that will be spending some time in our night sky over the next 2 months!

Related: Learn more about Cameras for Astrophotography


Image Processing NGC 1499

Compare the single frame to the stacked image of over 2 hours and processing


NGC 1499, or “The California Nebula” is a large emission nebula located in the constellation of Perseus.  It’s shape resembles the outline of the State of California.  The California Nebula is very difficult to observe visually because of it’s low surface brightness, but shows up well in long exposure photography.  It was discovered by E.E. Barnard in 1884.

California Nebula – Image Details

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Modified)
ISO: 1600 Exposure: 2 hours, 40 Minutes (32 x 300s)
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 darks

Canon 450D / 1000D - Gary Honis Full Spectrum Mod

Gary Honis will take you step by step of how to remove the IR cut filter in your Canon XS or XSi in the video below. Removing this filter from the camera allows H-Alpha wavelengths to pass through for deep-sky imaging. I was able to modify my DSLR myself by watching this video. I performed the “full-spectrum” mod, and did not install any additional new filters to the camera. I only removed the IR-Cut filter. My clip-in Hutech IDAS LPS filter protects the sensor.



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Unmodded DSLR Test – California Nebula

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The following photo of the California Nebula was captured using my DSLR camera before it was modified for astrophotography. NGC 1499 in Perseus is perhaps the best example of the difference removing the stock IR cut filter from your DSLR camera can make.

For an emission nebula like this, an image with a stock camera vs. modified is night and day. Some emission nebula are well suited for a stock camera, such as the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius. As you’ll be able to tell from the photo below, the California Nebula is not one of them.

Taken with 80mm ED Scope and Unmodded Canon Xsi

NGC 1499 – The California Nebula.

Canon Xsi unmodded

54 x 3 Min Frames @ iso 1600
Stacked with Dark Frames in DeepSkyStacker, Processed in PS CS5

Compare this to a more recent version of the California Nebula captured using a modified (Full-Spectrum) DSLR.

California Nebula

When I shot the North American Nebula, my Astro-buddies said things like “Wow your unmodded Xsi picks up a lot of red” and I thought, hey, maybe I can hold off on an expensive and intrusive mod to my precious Canon. All of those thoughts disappeared as I began to process my photo of NGC 1499 yesterday.

This nebula doesn’t even EXIST with an unmodded DSLR!  I suppose the photo above shows a pleasant mix of colored stars and faint pink nebulosity, but if you’ve ever seen a REAL photo of the California Nebula, you will understand my predicament.

Modified DSLR camera

My Canon EOS Rebel XSi DSLR camera.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of modifying a DSLR camera for astrophotography, it involves removing the stock IR cut filter that sits over the camera sensor. Once removed, the camera is able to record more details in the h-alpha portion of the visible spectrum. 

The h-alpha wavelength is very important to amateur astrophotographers, as many deep-sky objects such as the Eagle Nebula emit a strong signal in this bandpass. 

Related Post: Narrowband Imaging for Beginners

Here’s the plan: Since I do not want to rip apart my 450D just yet, as I use it A LOT for daytime photography, I will wait until boxing day, at which point I will buy a new DSLR, then either mod the 450D myself, or fork out the cash to do it right at KW Telescope.

UPDATE: Dec. 14, 2012

ngc 1499 - California Nebula

California Nebula with Unmodified DLSR

I decided I would give this object a fair kick in the can. I added about 2 hours of data under dark skies at the CCCA.  It was a nightmare to process, however.  Because I stretched it to its limits, I revealed light pollution, amp glow, gradients… you name it!  I don’t usually like to stretch images this far. Needless to say, I won’t be imaging the California Nebula again until I modify my 450D.

If you are not familiar with this nebula, it is located near the bright star, Menkib, in Perseus. The constellation Taurus and the beautiful Pleiades star cluster is not far away.

The location of the California Nebula in Perseus.

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