Ed Bianchina's Astronomy



Nebula comes from the Latin word for "cloud".  This name is appropriate for these objects as they often look wispy and blown by unseen winds.  They look that way because they are.  Unlike their terrestrial relatives these clouds are made of Hydrogen gas and minute dust particles that either reflect, absorb or completely block light stars near them. 


The three types look different and are the result of very different physical process's.  

  • Absorption Nebula often called dark nebula because they appear black set in a sea of stars.  Even though they are black they are often the easiest to photograph because of the "space" they leave in star fields.
  • Emission Nebula are the most commonly photographed because of the abundance and striking color.  They result from the hydrogen absorbing blue light from a star and then emitting it at a specific wavelength (656nm), which is deep red.
  • Reflection Nebula is the simplest to understand.  This nebula occurs when star light is simply reflected from the gas and dust in the cloud.
Of course the really interesting photographs occur when all three are present in a photograph.  This happens often and can create some incredible images. 


Orion Nebula

How could I not start off with the best known, most widely studied, most photographed objects in the sky.  This image is actually to different objects.  This first is the "Running Man" nebula (messier 45) on the left.  Mostly a reflection nebula it still contains elements of an absorption nebula.  It gets its name from the pattern which appears to be a person running towards the bottom of the photograph.

The other object is the great nebula itself.  This region of our galaxy is full of gas and is actively forming stars.  The nebula contains elements of all three nebula types.   Also known as Messier 42 it is one of the few deep space objects that can be seen with the naked eye.  This object, known to the Maya's of South America, is located about 1300 light years distant and is 24 light years across.

Taken with my Megrez 90 telescope on my Atlas mount.  The camera is a QHY8 using Nebulosity for capture and PHD for guiding. Stacked with Deep Sky Stacker and Photoshop.     

Pleiades Star Cluster

The Pleiades is also very famous and easily seen with the naked eye as a group of bright star.  If the night is dark, skies clear and your eye sight good you can seen the seven brightest of the group.  This leads to its other name of "The Seven Sisters".  This cluster was know to man probably before written history!  This is purely a reflection nebula, the gas is not associated with the stars but the stars are just passing through a patch of gas.  Interestingly there are about 1000 stars in this cluster including many brown dwarfs (these are "stars" too small to burn hydrogen but to big to be planets).  Most certainly there are planets in there as well.  You may also know this famous cluster by the Japanese name..."Subaru"!

Taken with my Megrez 90 telescope on my Atlas mount.  The camera is a QHY8 using Nebulosity for capture and PHD for guiding. Stacked with Deep Sky Stacker and Photoshop.

The Heart Nebula

Can you see why it is called the Heart Nebula? Probably a little better than the official name of IC 1805. 

The nebula lies some 7500 light years away from Earth and is located in the Perseus arm of the Galaxy in the constellation Cassiopeia. This is an emission nebula showing glowing gas and darker dust lanes. The nebula is formed by plasma of ionized hydrogen and free electrons.

The very brightest part of this nebula (the knot at the right) is separately classified as NGC 896, because it was the first part of this nebula to be discovered.  Cick on the image on the right to get a better view.

The nebula's intense red output and its configuration are driven by the radiation emanating from a small group of stars near the nebula's center. This open cluster of stars known as Melotte 15 contains a few bright stars nearly 50 times the mass of our Sun, and many more dim stars that are only a fraction of our Sun's mass. The cluster used to contain a microquasar that was expelled millions of years ago.

The Flaming Star Nebula

I present to you The Flaming Star nebula.  The star in the middle is AE Aurigae and is surrounded by a vast cloud of hydrogen.  The blue star is very hot exciting the gas near it making it glow a bright red.  Located about 1500 light years away it is about 5 light years wide.

The top image represents a different type of capture and processing.  I took a number of images with no filter in place to be able to capture the green and blue of the area.  To that I added the specific red that the gas emits.  In this way I can capture the better detail and higher contrast of the nebula yielding a better image.  Processing is much more difficult since I have to process each color separately and then recombine them later.  Lots of fun anyway and I like the results!

The bottom image is a regular RGB image taken with a normal  one shot color camera with no filter.  I think you can see the difference.

Bubble Nebula et. al.


This picture actually shows three seperate objects.  The first one, Messier 52, (the stars on the left) is an open cluster in the constallation of Cassiopeia.  The distance is not well known but is estimated at between 3,000 and 7,000 light years away. 

The second object is NGC7538 (on ther right) and it is located in the constellation Cepheus. It is about 9,100 light years away from earth. It is home to the largest protostar which is about 300 times the size of our Solar System.

The final object is the Bubble Nebula (in the center) is an emmision nebula named for the bubble formation in the center.  The bubble is formed from the stellar wind coming from a young massive star in the center.  Light from the star not only forms the bubble but also excites the gas in the area.

Expect better detail from the new scope later in 2011!     Taken with my Megrez 90 telescope on my Atlas mount.  The camera is a QHY8 using Nebulosity for capture and PHD for guiding. Stacked with Deep Sky Stacker and Photoshop.

Soul Nebula


 The Soul Nebula (a.k.a. the Embryo Nebula, IC 1848). It is an open cluster of stars surrounded by a cloud of dust and gas over 150 light-years across and located about 6,500 light-years from Earth, near the Heart Nebula. The cluster of stars formed about a million years ago from the material of the nebula. Winds and ultraviolet light from these young stars are excavating a cavity in the cloud. Parts of the cloud that are more dense than their surroundings are being eroded more slowly and form giant towers, or pillars of dust and gas, which all point toward the central star cluster. Material at the interior edges of the cavity is also being compressed by the winds and radiation from the star cluster. This triggers new star formation in those areas. The pillars inside the Soul Nebula are each about 10 light-years tall and have stars forming at their tips.

This was taken using my Megrez 90 and QHY8 Camera.