IC 63 The Ghost of Cassiopeia

IC 63 The Ghost of Cassiopeia

IC 63, also known as the “Ghost of Cassiopeia” and IC 59, is an emission and reflection nebulae located in Cassiopeia. IC63 is 500 light-years away. The highly bright star Gamma Cassiopeia’s interaction with the nebula is slowly eroding the structure out.

The ghost-like structure is slowly disappearing under the radiation of Gamma Cas. IC63 is only about 3 to 4 light-years away from Gamma Cas.

The blue reflection in the nebula comes from the light from Gamma Cas, reflected off the nebula’s dust. The red nebulosity comes from the hydrogen gas and its interaction with the ultraviolet radiation from Gamma Cas, causing it to glow red.

Gamma Cas is an extremely bright star that releases the energy of 34,000 suns. The nebula measures about 2 degrees, which is about four times as wide as the full moon.

IC63 is near Gamma Cas, the middle star in Cassiopeia, which looks like the letter ‘M’ or ‘W’ depending on the orientation of the Constellation at its given time of the year. Cassiopeia is visible every night and distinctive in the letter ‘M’ or ‘W’ shape. It’s best seen high in an autumn and winter sky.

IC 63 was a challenging target to capture since the nebula is faint, and the bright star Gamma Cas has a high tendency of causing internal reflections that could blow out the star and make it challenging to process.

IC 63 The Ghost of Cassiopeia

This was my second attempt with this target. My first attempt was just an impromptu imaging session while I was waiting for another target.

Processing Info

I was able to get 80 frames of Ha and 88 frames of Sii over two nights with almost 99% moon. The Chroma NB filters did a great job. I combined this using the HSS palette.

The following steps were performed to the Ha, and Sii stacked data.

  • Dynamic Crop
  • Linear Fit
  • Dynamic Background Extraction.

Once I removed the gradients and cropped the images to my liking, I did an LRGB combination using the HSS color palette.

I then performed the following steps in PixInishgt:

  • Background Neutralization
  • Color Calibration
  • EZ Denoise
  • Histogram Transformation
  • SCNR
  • Curves Transformation (x3 with multiple range masks)
  • Convolution
  • LRGB Combination (CIE L* Component)
  • Local Histogram Equalization
  • EZ HDR
  • Star Mask
  • Morphological Transformation

I struggled a bit to get the colors right, and I think I could do a better job in the future. I’ll attempt processing this again at some point in the future.

Acquisition Data

IC63 The Ghost of Cassiopeia

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 55 minutes (47 x 300 seconds) -20°C
    • Date: November 17, 2020
    • Location: Voorhees State Park, NJ, United States
    • Temperature: 58°F/14.4°C
    • Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 4
    • RA center: 01h 00′ 53″
    • DEC center: 60° 53′ 31″
    • Orientation: -109.076 degrees
    • Field radius: 0.987 degrees
    • Resolution: 3720 x 2330