The Flame Nebula, Alone

Rod Pommier
Location of photo
Pommier Observatory, Portland, OR, USA
Date/Time of photo
2013-12-18 through 2014-01-03
Telescope/Mount: Celestron Compustar C14 SCT with AstroPhysics 0.75x focal reducer (f/8). Camera: SBIG STL 11000M with Baader Planetarium HaLRGB filters. SBIG AO-L adaptive optics at 7 Hz. Exposures: HaLRGB=270:60:60:60 minutes = 7.5 hours total exposure.
Close up images of NGC 2024, the Flame Nebula, alone are uncommon. The few that have been published generally have glare and diffraction spikes from the nearby very bright star Alnitak extending over the Flame Nebula. The glare can overwhelm the western side of the nebula and diffraction spikes can cut intrusively through the image. These features detract from the beauty of the Flame Nebula. In this image, I endeavored to portray the Flame Nebula alone using a variety of techniques. These included placing Alnitak just outside the field of view, imaging it with a Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope to eliminate diffraction spikes, handcrafting an extra-long dew shield to exclude as much of Alnitak's glare as possible, imaging in hydrogen-alpha, and using multiple image processing techniques to eliminate any remaining glare, gradients, and internal reflections. The result is an image of just the dramatic Flame Nebula in all its glory, shining amidst the surrounding dark dust clouds.
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