Barnard 33 The Horsehead Nebula

B33Click here for an annotated version of this target.

Barnard 33, also known as the Horsehead Nebula, is a dark nebula in Orion’s constellation. The dark nebula, which forms the horsehead’s shape, is illuminated by the bright emission nebula IC 434.

The Horsehead was first discovered in 1888 by Scottish astronomer Williamina Fleming. It is one of their most recognizable objects and is 1,374 light-years away from us.

The horse head’s dark area is caused by thick dust blocking the stars’ light behind it. There are other interesting targets near the Horse Head like NGC 2024 (The Flame Nebula) and a blue reflection nebula NGC 2023. The Flame Nebula is below Alnitak, which is the first star on Orion’s Belt. At a magnitude of 1.77, it is the brightest star in this image.

The constellation of Orion has several large stellar nurseries. The Horsehead and Flame Nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which is a star-forming region.

The Flame Nebula has a cluster of several hundred newborn stars at its center. The Flame Nebula is a magnitude 10 and about 1350 light-years away.

I took this target at Voorhees State Park in NJ. I had trouble getting the camera getting down to -20°C, so I had it down to -10°C during the entire night.

Processing Info

I took 49 frames at 300 seconds each. I had to throw away eight frames. I stacked the 41 light frames along with 50 dark and 60 flat and dark flat frames in PixInsight.

The following processes were performed in PixInsight:

  • Dynamic Crop
  • Dynamic Background Extraction
  • Background Neutralization
  • Color Calibration
  • Photometric Color Calibration
  • MultiScale Linear Transform
  • Histogram Transformation
  • LRGBCombination
  • Curves Transformation (X2 with a range mask. Inverted mask for the background and then non inverted for the target)
  • Color Saturation
  • SCNR
  • Morphological Transformation (Generated StarMask using default settings)
  • Local Histogram Equalization (Performed with a range mask)

Once I found what I liked, I saved the files and went to Photoshop. I played around with the levels, vibrance, and saturation a bit. I then ran Topaz AI DeNoise. This is an amazing plugin that works like magic.

The area of the sky in OrionHere you can see the area of the sky in Orion imaged.

Acquisition Data

    • Telescope: Explore Scientific ED127 f7.5 Air-Spaced Triplet Apochromatic Refractor
    • Camera: ZWO ASI2600MC Pro
    • Guide Scope: Orion ST80
    • Guide Camera: ZWO ASI290MM Mini. Dithering every image at 1 pixel each time.
    • Mount: iOptron CEM60
    • Software: NINA for image acquisition. PixInsight is used for stacking and editing. Imported to Photoshop for final touchup and watermarking.
    • Other Accessories: AstroZap Dew Heater, Starizona Apex ED 0.65x L
      Reducer/Flattener, MoonLite CFL 2.5″ Focuser, High Res Stepper Motor, V3 Controller, Pegasus Astro Power Box Advance
    • Filters: Optolong L-eNhance 2″
    • Exposure Time: 3 hours 25 minutes (41 x 300 seconds) -10°C
    • Exposure Start: 01:25
    • Date: November 09, 2020
    • Location: Voorhees State Park, NJ, United States
    • GPS Coordinates: Lat. 40.68187, Long. -74.89797
    • Temperature: 58°F/14.4°C
    • Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 4
    • Astrometry.net job: 4002444
    • Avg. Moon age: 23.11 Days
    • Avg. Moon phase: 39.87%
    • RA center: 5h 40′ 50″
    • DEC center: -2° 26′ 52″
    • Orientation: 77.243 degrees
    • Field radius: 1.237 degrees
    • Magnitude: 7.3
    • Resolution: 3720 x 2330