NGC 6960: The Witch’s Broom
Some of the most beautiful images come the death of stars. Of course, those deaths such as the recent supernova in Messier 51 are so far away that we’re not going to be able to view their beauty (especially against the backdrop of their galaxy hosts!) However, our very own galaxy, the Milky Way is host to it’s fair share of supernova, and the nebulous remnants they leave behind. One such example is the Veil Nebula.
The Veil Nebula is a fairly large complex which is often broken up into three images because the whole field is so wide. My favorite part of the veil is NGC 6960, the “Witch’s Broom”. Nearly one year ago I spent two days imaging and wasn’t particularly satisfied with the results. But, it’s been a year, and I’ve learned a lot. So I decided to change it up a bit.
This image consists of 13x 10 min exposures, taken with the Televue NP101is. However, this time I actually had the 1.5x extender, so I put that in place. This is like a 1.5x barlow (which is now discontinued by Televue) which increases the focal length from 540mm to 810mm. With a bit of luck, some clever camera rotating, and of course a lot of patience, framing this with the larger image scale worked out quite nicely! Also, there were no filters used here. None. Not even a light pollution filter (the Orion Skyglow sometimes seems like it should have been built into the StarShoot Pro… And remember, this is a one shot color camera (OSC) so picking up the faint details here is a challenge!)
The challenge of processing this cackling denizen of the sky is 52 Cygni, which can quickly flare up into a giant fireball killing the middle of the nebula. Photoshop offers so many tools to help combat this and keep it under control – such as selective leveling, and feathering selections. Using layer masks to process awkward selections also helps to highlight the nebula, and keep this star’s brightness at bay. That said, it certainly makes this one fun to process! Several masks were used here including unsharpen mask, gaussian blurs, and a high pass filter. The healing brush tool was used aggressively to try and pull out a bad column — if you look closely, can you see where that defect is?