Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors

Astrophotography Brian A. Morganti

IC 2118 Witch Head Nebula



The faint Witch Head Nebula is a reflection nebula located 900 light years distant.  It is composed of small dust grains reflecting blue light from the nearby brilliant star Rigel which locates the right "foot" of Orion. Rigel, not visible, is located to the right in the above photo.  The color of this very blue nebula is caused not only by blue color of Rigel, but also because the dust grains reflect blue light more efficiently than red. A similar physical process causes Earth's daytime sky to appear blue. 

If you use your imagination you should be able to make out the large chin, open mouth and pointed nose of a wicked witch.  Technically, this nebula is located in the constellation of Eridanus.  North is to the bottom in this photo to better show the witch's profile. 


  • Date & Location:  Jan 3/4, 5, 6, &11 - 2019.  - StarEffects Observatory, Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Mostly calm winds except for windy conditions on the 6th., Average temps 28F, 41F, 36F, 21F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear to start all 4 nights with above average transparency transitioning to average.   

  • SQM-L:  NI 20:29-20.38, N2 20:39-20:43, N3 20:43-clouds, N4 20.27-20:43

  • Optics:  TeleVue NP101is Refractor 540mm @ f5.4 FF

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

  • Mount:  AP900GTO

  • Guiding:  Orion SSAG @ 5 second exposures w/TeleVue TV60is - Very Good Graph

  • Camera:  Canon 6D Hutech Modified

  • Exposure:  8 hours 2 min (90x5 min & 8x4min subs) @ ISO 800 RAW using Custom White Balance

  • Calibration Frames:  No Darks or Bias used, 10 Field Flats w/Alnitak Flat Man - All Custom White Balance

  • Processing:  Images Plus 5.75a, PS CS6, NIK filters, RC-astro

  • Comments:  I last photographed this region in 2009 (shown below) but had long wished to try again using a faster scope and a much longer acquisition time.  I am overall pleased with the results as I consider this one of the most interesting and beautiful nebulas in the heavens. 



Previous attempt from 2009 shown below...




  • Date & Location:  November 19, 2009 - Bernville, PA

  • Weather:  Calm wind, 34F.

  • Sky Conditions:  Clear with good transparency. 

  • Optics:  TeleVue TV60is Refractor (360mm -f/6) with field flattener.

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

  • Mount:  Losmandy G-11 equatorial with Gemini V4

  • Guiding:  Orion Solitaire w/TeleVue NP101is

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

  • Exposure:  47 min (5 x 8 min, 1 x 7 min) @ ISO 800, RAW

  • Calibration Frames:  In camera dark frame subtraction

  • Processing:  Photoshop CS4, Noise Ninja, NIK 

  • Comments:  Photographed from my back yard (5.5 limiting magnitude) on a night with very good transparency.  Unfortunately distant light domes begin to encroach the region of the sky where this very faint object is located and my 8 minute exposures  may have been overwhelmed with light pollution, thus washing out the signal.  I'd like to try this one again either under very dark skies or with a longer series of shorter light frame subs. 



Astrophotography  -  Nightscapes & Deep Sky Colors