IC405 - Flaming Star Nebula

RA: 5hrs 16min 05secs      Dec: 34 27' 49"    Mag: 11.0   Distance: 1600 light years   Constellation: Auriga

IC405 refers to the area of nebulosity surrounding AE Aurigae a variable magnitude (4-6) 'runaway' star in Auriga, but the actual extent of nebulosity far exceeds the field captured in this photograph, extending to the left and downwards by another 3 frames!  The red in the nebula consists of hydrogen and the blue colouration is light reflected from the star by dust.  The nebula derives its name from the impression of flames around AE Aurigae given by the nebulosity.  It requires exceptionally clear-seeing and moisture-free skies  in order to see or capture and this is reflected in this low contrast image compared with other photographs of it taken by professionals or those in dryer locations.  This picture is the combination of exposures taken on the 10th and the 13th of March around midnight on both occasions.  The moon was almost new and the temperature 7 deg C.  The Meade DSI was fitted with a Meade broadband nebula filter in order to enhance the contrast and the final image is the result of combining 3 frames made up as follows: 68x30seconds, 38x30 and 2 days later, 240x30, making a total exposure time of 173 minutes.  The moon was new. 

Considering how faint this object is, I was lucky to capture any nebulosity at all.  It had to have midtone enhancement without causing 'star-bloat' especially of AE Aurigae which was already extremely bright.  This was achieved after setting the dark point by creating a negative layer mask of the stars.  The curves command in Photoshop was used to increase the red and blue channel outputs, whilst adjusting the green level proportionately according to the original ratio.  Finally, a 75% unsharp mask was applied with a radius of 2.5 pixels and threshold of 5.


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