I made the 115 mile round trip to my closest dark site last night. I didn’t realize until after I was done polar aligning and taking flats that the local university had a lab scheduled for the facility. Over the hours of dusk and the beginning of nightfall, dozens of students were driving in with every form of light known to man blasting from their vehicles. I shot dark subs while this was going on and enjoyed some java and a gorgeous sky whilst kicking myself for leaving my binoculars at home. Once things settled down and the gaggle of them were doing their thing around the grounds, I started imaging. The low-pass filter in my unmodded DSLR makes red band targets challenging unless you are going to sink a lot of integration into them, so I decided to try something… well, not red. This is my first attempt at the Iris, but definitely not my last since this is such a cool DSO. I did the integration early this morning in a hurry, so I’ll likely go back and redo all the post processing to try and take care of some more of the noise issues when I have time to focus on it. At any rate, it was a wonderful night out despite the lingering headlights and faint murmur of “like, ermagerd, <insert pop-culture drama>, like, I know, right, like” on the wind.
The Iris Nebula (NGC 7023) is a bright nebula in the constellation Cepheus. NGC 7023 is actually the cluster within the nebula, but everyone kinda lumps it all together in colloquialism. It livies about 1,300 light-years away and is six light-years across. There are four main flavors of nebulae: reflection, dark, planetary, and emission. The etymological root of “nebula” means “cloud”. This one happens to be a reflection nebula… which means the energy from the nearby stars is insufficient to ionize the gas of the nebula to create an emission nebula, but is enough to give sufficient scattering to make the dust visible. The main star lighting this puppy up is SAO 19158.