Shooting between the clouds: Getting Two Nebulas in Monoceros

AAA Astrophotographers tried to make the best of the mostly dreadful weather in December.

Tom Cuccia and Samir Patel managed to get in quality shooting time for two deep sky objects. As it turns out, they both imaged objects in Monoceros, just to the east of the star Betelgeuse in Orion (see location image).

Here’s Tom’s account of photographing the Christmas Tree nebula:

Christmas Tree Nebula from New Jersey. Photo by Tom Cuccia

“This has been an object I have been trying to get for years. This is a tough object, especially from my light polluted skies of New Jersey. Also, being a December/January object, I always set an arbitrary deadline for this one around mid-December otherwise it doesn’t seem right to capture after the holidays. Unfortunately, the only good shooting day happened to be when the moon was almost full. Even with my special narrowband filter, the green/blue spectrum that passes through is wide enough to be affected by a bright moon. Some contrast was lost but this was my only chance this year to capture.

Some weird computer problems were plaguing me too. My laptop does not like the cold. I experienced a problem last year where my laptop would not charge in the cold weather. It would show that it is plugged in, but not charging. I had this the other night but also something new. The computer almost looked like it went into sleep mode. The keys were still illuminated but screen was off. Also, the hard drive seemed to be making a funny noise. This happened to me twice and I had to hard reset it. Hopefully I can get an SSD (solid state drive) in here before I lose all my data.

Location of Christmas Tree nebula and Rosette Nebula. Credit: Wikisky

My solution to this was to get my dew heater and wrap it around the laptop. The dew strip I have for my 8″ telescope was just big enough to wrap around the laptop. After a little while, the battery started charging and no more shutoffs. This is certainly not a permanent solution but might hold me over for a little until I can replace the hard drive. No more moving parts hopefully.”

Technical data:

  • 18 subframes of 300 seconds each
  • ZWO ASI-1600mc color camera
  • Filter – Optcorp Triband narrowband imaging filter (H-Alpha/Oxygen3/H-Beta)
  • Camera cooled to -25C/ Dark subtracted
  • Stellarvue 70mm F4.8 Triplet Refractor
  • Mount Celestron CGEM DX
  • Autoguided with ASI-174 mono camera/Orion 50mm F3.2 guidescope

Samir had a different adventure trying to get the Rosette Nebula:

Rosette Nebula from Jenny Jump. Photo by Samir Patel

“Christmas Eve forecast showed clear skies, Jeff Williams and I headed to the UACNJ site in Jenny Jump State Park in New Jersey to see if we can capture something. Was thinking of finishing up the Soul Nebula but just as scope slewed to the target, clouds attacked, PHD2 (guiding software) lost the guiding star and the sequence was aborted by SGP (Sequence Generator Pro software). By this time Orion was up so I targeted the Rosette nebula, again slewed to the target and started the sequence. When the image downloaded it was completely white with some stars (clouds) and I see a pop-up message saying sequence aborted, look up and see clouds covering the Orion. It took a few tries, but here’s how it went:

Target selected: Soul Nebula: result-clouds-sequence aborted
Target selected: Rosette Nebula: result-clouds-sequence aborted
Target selected: Soul Nebula (again): result-clouds again, by the time I set up the SGP software
Target selected: Rosette Nebula: result-success for 2:30 hours

What happened was some low hanging clouds would break off time to time and drift away from west to east. This went on throughout the night we were there. Anyway, the brief clearing gave us an opportunity to get some H-a (hydrogen alpha) data for the Rosette.”

Technical data:

  • Takahashi FSQn106mm f5 imaging scope
  • 90mm f5 guide scope
  • ZWO ASI 1600mm cooled CMOS mono camera
  • ZWO ASI 290mm guide camera
  • Filter: Baader 7nm H-a
  • i-Optron CEM 60 Mount
  • SGP Pro for image acquisition
  • PHD2 for guiding

Roughly 2 hours and 30 mins of H-a data. I had Oiii (oxygen 3) collection set up as well but clouds rolled back in again. Used PixInsight to process the data and some final processing in Lightroom and Snapseed (on jpeg image). Here’s the image, this will be an image in progress so will add more data as I get a chance to image again.

Note: was able to get a used flat panel, used flats for the first time which indeed eliminated all the dust like magic, thanks to Mauri Rosenthal for the suggestion last time.
Once again thank you to Jeff who helped me to image this target.”

See more of Samir’s photos: @charotarguy