The Flame and the Horsehead

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Title     The Flame and the Horsehead
Photographer     pdc023/Patrick (1,381) Send mail to this user
Portfolio     Astrophotography
F-stop     f/8
Shutter speed     60 sec or more
Categories     Nature
Camera     Canon 450D
Format     RAW
Content advisory     G (general audiences)
Submitted     December 14, 2012 9:35:18 AM CST
Views     735
Rating     12 Thumb-up

The Flame and the Horsehead Nebulae are emission nebulae in the constellation Orion and part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex which dominates this region of the winter night sky. Emission nebulae emit light as the result of the ultraviolet radiation of the nearby stars causing the elemental gases of the cloud to glow in much the same way as a neon or fluorescent light works. The variance in the colors between the Horsehead's pinkish red and the Flame's more orangeish pink is the natural result of the slight variations in the molecular makeup between the two clouds. The colors are naturally occurring and have not been manipulated by the photographer. In fact, if you were able to observe these nebulae through a telescope, you would likely see no color at all, as the human eye is not sensitive enough to detect color at the extremely faint levels that these nebulae present themselves. The bright star at the intersection of the two nebulae is Alnitak. This star would be the left-most star in Orion's belt as you view the constellation in the night sky.

To create this photograph, I attached a modified Canon XSi (450D) DSLR to my Sky-Watcher 120 mm refractor telescope. The camera has been modified by removing the infrared cut filter from the optical train, and replacing it with a narrow band IR pass filter which increases the camera's sensitivity the near infrared wavelengths that emission nebulae glow at. The telescope, with a focal length of 900 mm, is mounted to a Celestron CGEM german equatorial mount which has been polar aligned and is driven in synch with (and opposite to) the rotation of the earth to cancel out the stars' apparent movement across the night sky over the long exposure times necessary to capture the image. Once aligned, aimed and focused, I took a series of 30 individual photos, 90 seconds per frame at 1600 ISO. The shutter aperture is fixed at f/7.5 and is simply the ratio of the telescope's focal length (900mm) to its aperture (120mm). Additional dark frames were shot and the resulting images were combined in a process called 'stacking' using a special program (Deep Sky Stacker) written specifically for this type of astrophotography. The resulting image is then further processed using Photoshop and Noise Ninja to bring out the faint details of the subject and to reduce the level of sensor noise common to this type of photography.

Thank you for looking.


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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from dongli/Dong (10,718) Send mail to this user on December 14, 2012 10:03:33 PM CST (3)

What a beautiful image, Patrick! The colour is wonderful also. You captured the view I can't see through my scope. Thank you for the explanation. The composition is very good. Well done.

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from rickshep/Rick (5,590) Send mail to this user on December 14, 2012 1:36:07 PM CST (4)

I cannot crit this as you are way beyond me in technique. But this is extraordinary. The amount of effort and post processing leaves me gobsmacked. Technical expertise and a deep knowledge of your kit and your area.

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Non-conforming thumb-up Non-conforming thumb-up Non-conforming thumb-up    from anandsawant01/Anand (274) Send mail to this user on December 14, 2012 1:22:19 PM CST

Simply Awesome


Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from otherjpt/Jim (3,275) Send mail to this user on December 14, 2012 10:52:45 AM CST (2) Early critique

Very well done and excellent description of the Horsehead and the process. Detail is stellar - pun intended - and no star trails which is quite good for a 90 sec non guided exposure. Obviously your polar alignment is right on. A real treat for this site. JimT

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from tassie/Thamar (1,991) Send mail to this user on December 14, 2012 10:09:37 AM CST (3) Early critique

Another fabulous shot. The clarity is amazing, and I appreciate the absence of diffraction spikes. If I were you, I would offer this to APOD. (Wish I could afford to buy a copy of this from you!)

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Thumb-up    from sigtech1006/Gerry (1,375) This user is a Premium Member Send mail to this user on December 14, 2012 10:00:18 AM CST (2) Early critique

one thumb for explaning how it was done.You have what you have. You cant vary it by a differnt DOF or changing the angle of veiw or back ground.One for the astronomers amongst us and is different from the moon shots normaly displayed.

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From senaatis/Sassan (16,943) Send mail to this user on December 15, 2012 5:57:50 AM CST

Though image is excellent with perfect technical work, I believe noise reduction software has caused more damage than good here. Like to see the image without or at least with subtle noise reduction.


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