Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti


NGC 7293 Helix Nebula

aka "Eye of God" Nebula




The Helix Nebula is a large planetary nebula that surrounds a dying star that has blown off its outer layers.  This shell of gas was once its central supply of nuclear fuel but is now nearly exhausted.  The remnant central star is a dense "white dwarf" that can no longer support nuclear reactions.  At a distance of 700 light-years, it is the closest planetary nebula to Earth.  The very hot white dwarf ionizes an inner shell of oxygen, which appears blue in this image, and an outer shell of hydrogen, which appears primarily red.  Several rings of material can be seen, with the fainter red northeastern arc visible to the upper left in this image. 

The central star shines at a magnitude of +13.5.  The Helix nebula itself shines at magnitude 6.3, but it has a relatively low surface brightness because of its large size of 18.5 arc minutes. It can, however, be seen in binoculars from a reasonably dark observing site with a true size of  about 4.00  light-years in space.


  • Date & Location:  September 26th & 27th 2014 - StarEffects Observatory - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm winds both nights with an average temperature of 50F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with average transparency on both nights.

  • SQM-L:  20.43 start - 20.53 finish on both nights.

  • Optics:  TeleVue NP101is Refractor @ 810mm f8.1 with 1.5x extender.

  • Filter:  Hutech IDAS-LPS (Light Pollution Suppression)

  • Mount:  AstroPhysics AP900GTO

  • Guiding:  Orion SSAG @5 seconds exposures.

  • Camera:  Canon T1i (500d) Hap Griffin modified - Baader UV/IR

  • Exposure:  30 - 6 minute subs  @ ISO1600 -  (180 minutes) 3 hours total exposure time.

  • Calibration Frames:  16 Darks & Bias, 10 Field Flats & 10 Dark Flats w/Alnitak Flat Man -- Custom White Balance

  • Processing:  Images Plus 5.75a, PS CS6, GradientXTerminator, NIK filter tools 

  • Comments:  This is my second attempt at imaging this target, and first time since 2010.  See previous image below.   


Below Image is from previous imaging session - October 2010




  • Date & Location:  October 7, 2010  - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Breezy,  58F.

  • 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:  65 min (7 x 5min, 5 x 6min @ ISO800).

  • Calibration Frames:  16 Darks & 9 Bias frames

  • Processing:  Images Plus 3.82b, Photoshop CS4, NIK.

  • Comments:   Located on my southern horizon, which is somewhat light polluted, I was able to gain enough detail from the nebula with the aid of a light pollution suppression filter and the combining multiple light frames.


Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors