Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti

M17 Swan Nebula




M17, the Swan Nebula, is like many other emission nebula in that it emits red light from hydrogen gas clouds excited by the high energy of young stars.  Unlike other nebula of its class, the bright stars that are energizing the Swan Nebula are concealed by dense dust.  Some of this dust in the center of the Swan both obscures and reflects the light from these bright stars.  White and blue light reflected by dust, combined with the red light emitted by hydrogen, can create a mix of pink and magenta tones near the center of the swan.  The Swan Nebula lies at the edge of a large molecular cloud 5,500 light-years from Earth and is within the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way.

M17 can be easily seen in binoculars and in a telescope the brighter portion of the nebula has the very distinctive shape of a swan, or the Greek letter Omega, hence its popular names.  It is also known as the Lobster, Horseshoe, and Checkmark Nebula. 

North is down in the above image.


  • Date & Location:  July 24, 2015 - StarEffects Observatory - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm winds, average temp of 60F

  • Sky Conditions:  Above Average Transparency w/patchy cirrus. 

  • SQM-L:  Average 20.39 to 20:53

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

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

  • Mount:  AstroPhysics AP900GTO

  • Guiding:  SSAG - 5 seconds exposures - Good Graph.

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

  • Exposure:  18 x 5min ISO800  (total 90 min)

  • Calibration Frames:  Darks, Bias 60F - 10 Field Flats w/Alnitak Flat Man

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

  • Comments:  Average sky conditions prevailed for imaging, with some cirrus patches from time to time.  Late start after midnight awaiting moonset which limited exposures as M17 got too low on the horizon. 



Previous Image with less exposure time shown below for comparison. 





  • Date & Location:  August 30, 2010  - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm, 68F.

  • 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:  15 min (3 x 5min) @ ISO 800 RAW

  • Calibration Frames:  In Camera Dark Noise Reduction

  • Processing:  Images Plus 3.82b, Photoshop CS4, Noise Ninja, NIK

  • Comments:  I was only able to capture 3 images of the Swan, but since it is a fairly bright DSO it turned out okay.  More and longer exposures would certainly bring out more details!


Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors