Russell Croman Astrophotography  



The Butterfly and Crescent Nebulas – Natural Color

About This Photograph

In the heart of the constellation of Cygnus lies a vast complex of colorful and chaotic clouds of gas and dust made visible by the bright stars nearby. In the upper left is the Butterfly Nebula, bisected by a dark lane of dense dust and gas seen in silhouette. The bright star to the lower right of this is Gamma Cygni, also known as Sadr, the central star in the Northern Cross.

Following the clouds and tendrils of glowing gas toward the bottom of the photograph leads to the enigmatic Crescent Nebula, the expanding outer layers of a rare Wolf-Rayet star near the end of its life. Long ago, as a red giant, it shed its outer layers into the surrounding space. Now completely depleted of hydrogen fuel, the star fuses helium in its core and expels an energetic stellar wind that collides with the earlier material, shocking it into luminescence.

This photograph was taken using a combination of red, green, and blue filters, and enhanced using exposures through filters that isolate light from sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen. Sulfur and hydrogen both emit a deep red color, while oxygen glows in a blue-green light, seen prominently here as the outer layer of the Crescent.

Click here for an annotated photograph.


Related Photographs

The Butterfly and Crescent Nebulas – Elemental Colors
The Crescent Nebula
The Crescent Nebula

Technical Details

Optics:Takahashi FSQ-106 EDX4, PlaneWave CDK14
Camera:SBIG STX-16803, SBIG STXL-6303E
Mount:Paramount MX+, Paramount ME-II
Filters:R, G, B, [SII], Hα, [O III]
Dates/Times:17-27 August 2020
Location:RC-Astro North Observatory at New Mexico Skies
Exposure Details:30.25 hours total
FSQ-106: 4 hours RGB, 19 hours [S II]:Hα:[O III]
CDK14: 7.25 hours Hα:[O III]
Acquisition:MaxIm DL 6, ACP Expert
Processing:PixInsight, Photoshop