Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti

NGC 6523 / M8 Lagoon Nebula

NGC 6530 Open Cluster


The Lagoon Nebula shows its central dark lane of obscuring dust, appearing like a lagoon when examined visually through a telescope.  Other more dark areas within the Lagoon Nebula are collapsing protostellar clouds called Bok Globules.  The brightest region in the nebula, called the hourglass nebula, is illuminated by two super-giant stars.  The rest of the nebula is energized by the young open cluster NGC 6530 emerging in the other side of the dark "lagoon".  The center of the nebula has a magenta tone because the dust reflects some of the light from the bright stars, combining blue reflection with the red emission.  The Lagoon Nebula is located 4310 light years from Earth,  but is visible to the naked eye from a dark sky location. 


  • Date & Location:  July 29/30, 2013  - StarEffects Observatory, Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm, 62F/57Dp 10:30pm - 58F/Dp57 12:30am

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with average transparency. 

  • SQM-L:  20:42start - 20:45end

  • Optics:  TeleVue NP101is Refractor w/TeleVue Field Flattener = 540mm @ f5.4

  • Filter:  IDAS-LPS 48mm (Light Pollution Suppression)

  • Mount:  AP900GTO

  • Guiding:  Orion SSAG @ 5 second exposures w/TeleVue TV60is

  • Camera:  Canon T1i (500D) Hap Griffin Modified - Baader UV/IR & CWB

  • Exposure:  96 min (24 x 4 minute subs) @ ISO 800 RAW

  • Calibration Frames:  12-10min Darks, 12 Bias, 12 Field Flats w/Alnitak Flat Man - All Custom White Balance

  • Processing:  Images Plus 4.50b, PS CS6, NIK filters

  • Comments:  I last imaged the Lagoon three years ago (see below) and wished to try my hand at it again utilizing additional exposure time, slightly longer focal length (540mm vs 432mm), the addition of field flats, and better processing techniques. Although guided, it really wasn't necessary for these 4 minute sub-exposures.  

Comparison below from previous imaging session in 2010 - image layout inverted



  • Date & Location:  July 11, 2010  - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm, 61F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with average transparency. 

  • Optics:  TeleVue NP101is Refractor with 0.8x TeleVue Reducer = 432mm @ f4.3

  • Filter:  Astronomic  EOS clip-in CLS-CCD (Light Pollution Suppression)

  • Mount:  Losmandy G-11 equatorial with Gemini V4

  • Guiding:  Orion Solitaire w/TeleVue TV60is

  • Camera:  Canon T1i (500D) Hap Griffin Modified - Baader UV/IR

  • Exposure:  35 min (2 x 5 min, 3 x 6min, 1 x 7min) @ ISO 800 RAW

  • Calibration Frames:  In Camera Dark Noise Reduction

  • Processing:  Photoshop CS4, Noise Ninja, NIK, Noel Carboni Astronomy Tools

  • Comments:  Overall pleased with this image, but would like to photograph from a darker site to bring out fainter details. 


Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors