“The Flaming Star Nebula holds a special place in my heart as the first image taken under the AstroFarsography mantle.”
The Flaming Star Nebula, located in the constellation of Auriga, is an impressive and large nebula that curls around the bright star AE Auriga. A variable star that, interestingly, possibly came from the trapezium cluster at the heart of M42 – The Great Orion Nebula.
I was a total newbie when I first tackled this target. I had just got my guiding sorted and some new gear, eager to test it all out and to not shoot bright targets like the Orion Nebula or the Pleiades. IC 405 is an emission nebula, which means it is rich in ionized gas, mainly of the Hydrogen-Alpha wavelength.
I had so many questions when I got to this target. Exposure length & ISO being just one. I knew a little about the exposure triangle as it related to terrestrial photography. I knew that my f/ratio was fixed at f/6, and the other things I could control were ISO and length. I thought most people use 1600 as its a dim target. So I ended up overcompensating I feel, as I shot 5 minute images at ISO1600. Subsequently I feel I absolutely blew out the bright stars – 16, 17, 18, 19 Aur as well as IQ Aur. Especially 16 Aur. These stars form the beautiful W shape – how this isn’t an asterism I don’t know.
Also, the dust…
So one item that’s removed when you do a full naked spectrum modification to a DSLR is what’s known as the Low Pass 1 filter. This pane of glass is at the front and foremost of the sensor assembly, and controls the sensor auto cleaning. So without it, dust can’t be automatically shaken away. I noticed this a few times when I was taking practice images, and whilst I cleaned the sensor, and the filter, as best as I could it was only when the first images began rolling in that I noticed the dust.
Tendrils of soot and nastiness reaching in from out of frame to ruin the image. I thought that flat frames may fix this, but a part of me already knew it was too far gone. But it’s so tricky to clean I didn’t want to pull the entire rig apart to tidy. Also, another bit of dust seems to have appeared near the stars that I never noticed initially.
As mentioned, IC 405 lies within the constellation of Auriga. It becomes visible mid-late October if you want to stay up past midnight, but ideally it’s best placed – for me – during the winter time.
If you’re wanting to fit the entire nebula in one frame then you’ll be wanting a focal length of about 400-500mm with a DSLR. Something like the Skywatcher Evostar 72 ED with a 0.8x reducer gives a great field of view with plenty of room for cropping or framing considerations.
Left: The image attached (from the popular and excellent program Stellarium shows the field of view that can be expected using a crop body Canon DSLR, a Skywatcher Evostar 72ED and a 0.8x reducer (336mm focal length). It frames nicely with plenty of breathing room, though 400-420mm will also fit the Flaming Star Nebula almost perfectly in one frame.
- RA/Dec: 05hr 16m 05s / +34° 27′ 49″
- Distance: 1500 light years
- Size: 2.5 light years
- Apparent Magnitude: +6
This was also a whole new adventure for me. I was never very good at processing (and still don’t think I’m all that great, but I did make a tutorial on how I edit deep sky astrophotos).
As mentioned above, the challenge was stretching the data out in such a way that I could tease the detail in the nebula out, without losing control of the multiple bright stars in the scene. Maybe it isn’t the best target for a newbie to try, but it’s certainly a great learning curve.
Being just RGB data from a DSLR, I think it lacks some contrast, had I made a HaRGB composite then it would look a lot different I think. Maybe this target is due a re-run.
At the end of it, The Flaming Star Nebula holds a special place in my heart as the first image taken under the AstroFarsography mantle. I believe I’ll keep on at this target until I have something I feel proud of. Only then will I think I’ve done it justice. Though The Flaming Star nebula, most definitely, will benefit from dropping some Hydrogen Alpha data into it most definitely.
I like the structure of this target and where it is in the sky, and the challenge processing it holds. Though now, 9 months later, I’ve learnt a lot more. So maybe it’s time for another reprocess?
Here is my initial processing result, I hope you enjoy.
- 2 hours integration time
- Canon 450D Full Spectrum Modified
- Skywatcher Evostar Pro 80 ED + 0.8x Altair Lightwave Reducer/Flattener
- Guided Exposures
- Deep Sky Stacker & Photoshop (Stacking and Editing)