Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti

Rho Ophiuchus Nebulae Complex

Scorpio - Ophiuchus

Wide Field 85mm View

Mouse over the above image to see the designations of the various objects

One of the most colorful areas of the entire night sky is this region in Ophiuchus and Scorpio, a fantastic collection of emission, reflection, and dark nebulas.  It contains dark nebulae where lanes of obscuring dust hide background stars, blue reflection nebulae where the dust is illuminated by nearby stars and red emission nebulae where the hot hydrogen gas itself is glowing. Easily visible is a rare orange/yellow reflection nebula around the red-giant star Antares as well as Globular cluster M4 just to its lower right. Rho Ophiuchi is the triple-star surrounded by IC 4604, the large blue reflection nebula to the upper right of Antares and emission nebula Sh2-9 is to its right.


  • Date & Location:  August 7, 2012 - Franklindale - Bradford County, PA

  • Weather:  Light winds, Temperature range 70F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with above average transparency. 

  • SQM-L: 21.28 start - 20.98 finish (moonrise)

  • Optics:  Canon EOS 70-200mm f2.8L @ 85mm f3.5

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

  • Mount:  AstroTrac TT320X

  • Guiding:  None

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

  • Exposure:  15 - 3.5 minute subs @ ISO1600 -  total 52.5 minutes

  • Calibration Frames:  Master Dark & Bias 70F

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

  • Comments:  Although sky conditions were excellent, I only had a brief window in which to capture this target.  Sunset occurred at 8:10pm and moonrise occurred at 10:49pm.  I started capturing frames at 10:10pm, but by this time Antares was already well past the meridian and sinking into the southwestern sky.  Increased atmospheric light scattering at this low angle combined with the rising moon quickly began to wash out exposures taken past 11pm.  This is definitely a target I will need to shoot again earlier in the season when it is at its highest point in the sky. 


Rho Ophiuchus Nebulae Complex

Closer 360mm View

(same object orientation as image above)


  • Date & Location:  June 15, 2013 - StarEffects Observatory - Berks County, PA

  • Weather:  Calm winds, Temperature range 57F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with average transparency. 

  • SQM-L: 20.50 start - 20.42 finish (increasing sky fog)

  • Optics:  TeleVue TV60is @360mm f6.0 with Field Flattener

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

  • Mount:  AP900GTO

  • Guiding:  Orion SSAG

  • Camera:  Canon 5D MII unmodified

  • Exposure:  15 - 6 minute subs @ ISO800 -  total 90 minutes

  • Calibration Frames:  Master Dark & Bias 57F

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

  • Comments:  Although mage was taken through a small  telescope with increased magnification, it was captured from less pristine skies than the one at the top of this page and with slower optics.  At the same time the larger pixel size of the Canon 5D MII may have compensated a bit for these shortcomings.  I may try this one again with a larger and faster scope, but that will mean sacrificing several of the colorful nebula exhibited in this field of view.   


Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors