An Iris Blooms at Cherry Springs

Despite a poor forecast, at the last minute I decided to go to Cherry Springs State Park, on Wednesday, October 6th, which was the night of the new moon for the month. The first night was very clear until about 12:30 AM, with a horizon-to-horizon Milky Way and very comfortable temperatures, though extremely wet.

Milky Way

I was mostly deep sky imaging in the ‘hunter’s blind’, but also did some Milky Way shots as well as binocular observations, and saw many shooting stars in various parts of the sky. Thursday was a beautiful day, with very comfortable temperatures, almost too hot in the sun, and cool in the shade. Perfect early Fall weather.

I was able to quickly capture Venus and Arcturus in the early afternoon, with a bright sun not too far off.


Thursday evening, two other people arrived with a vintage Japanese telescope. Before it got fully dark, I showed them Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, which was difficult with such a tiny eyepiece and no finderscope. But it was a nice view. I then made some quick thumbnail captures with my little 51mm RedCat, before astro twilight ended.

The Jovian System

It only stayed clear for about an hour after astro twilight ended, and then a thick fog rolled in, allowing for an early bedtime.


I did not get the time I wanted for my deep sky object I had planned for this trip, the Iris nebula, NGC 7023, Cadwell 4, and the interstellar dust clouds LBN 468, 475 and 483, that extend from Cepheus, into Draco.  But I managed to make use of the 3.5 hours of data acquired from both nights for the final

The Iris Nebula (Caldwell 4, NGC 7023)

Deep Sky Object Information:
The Iris Nebula (Caldwell 4, NGC 7023) is a bright reflection nebula in the constellation Cepheus. NGC 7023 is actually the cluster within the nebula, The nebula is LBN 487, which is lit lit by a magnitude +7 star, SAO 19158.  It lies 1,300 light-years away. The blue “petals” span across 6 light years.  The faint brownish areas surrounding this nebula are the photoluminescence of more interstellar dust, that is converted to the longer wavelengths of visible light. Lynds Bright Nebulae, LBN 468, along with LBN 475 and 483, are interstellar HII regions that straddle the constellations Cepheus and Draco.

Deep Sky Image Capture Information:
Telescope: William Optics “RedCat” 51mm, f/4.9 Petzval Refractor
Camera: ZWO ASI 294MM Pro, cooled to -10C
   –  Luminance, 41 x 120 seconds, Gain 100, BIN 1
   –  R-G-B, 43 x 60 seconds each, Gain 121, BIN2
   –  30 Flat Frames and 30 Dark-Flat Frames for each filter, and 30  Dark Frames shared for all four filters.
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro
Guide Scope: Modified SvBony 30mm x 210mmFL F/7.5 Guidescope
Guide Camera: ZWO ASI 224MC
Dates/Times:  October 6 and 7 2021, from twilight until clouds came.
Location:  Cherry Springs State Park, PA

Steve Bellavia is the principal engineer for the camera on the Vera Rubin (formerly called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, LSST).  He is also an adjunct professor of physics at Suffolk County Community College.

You can find Steven’s work here: