IC 434: The Horsehead Nebula
October 6-7, 2010 were simply stellar nights for viewing and photographing here in Washington. In the upcoming days, I’ll be putting up some of the nicest images that I think I’ve ever put together. So far, my favorite one is The Horsehead Nebula. Every time I read about this, I always read about how difficult it is to see visually. However, I didn’t find it difficult to image at all! And, as a surprise bonus, NGC 2024, The Flame Nebula snuck into my field of view!
I’ll admit I’m not creative when looking for targets to image. Sure, I use the resources (especially objects by size) highlighted in “Planning a Night of Astronomy“, but I also find inspiration by other works. In this case, it was NASA. Back on the 5th of October, the Astronomy Picture of the Day was the whole of Bernards Loop — a bit smaller scale, but large field of view. Perhaps a mosaic of Bernards Loop is in the cards one day…
The horsehead itself here reminds me a lot of the knight in chess. Now, who wants to manufacture a space-themed chess set!?
This image consists of only 7x subexposures, each of 300 seconds. Sigma-clip stacked in MaximDL, I was surprised how easy it was to really bring out the brilliance. It only took two screen stretch passes and a gentle unsharpen mask to really show what the Televue NP101is and Orion StarShoot Pro v2.0 had delivered to me! Autoguiding here was with the Stellarvue 60mm guidescope, and Orion Starshoot Autoguider. I also used the Orion Skyglow Imaging Filter – not because there was a lot of light pollution, but rather because I find it tends to help out with nebula imaging since it functions similarly to an OIII filter.
Locating the Horsehead Nebula is not difficult. If you can find the three stars making up Orion’s belt, you’re good to go. Simply go to Alnitak and look right below it on the line connecting to Saiph and you’ll find it in no time!