NGC 2736 Pencil Nebula

25 February 2019

I don't often get to post my own astrophotographs, but this time I'm going to. I know I sound smug, but I'm pretty pleased with this one.

But you can do this too.

This is NGC 2736, which is also called, weirdly enough, the Pencil Nebula. Personally, I don't think it looks like a pencil at all. Maybe a quill, I guess...?

I took this photo at the new moon about six weeks ago and hadn't had time to do the processing until yesterday. It's a combination of seven different colours. It starts with 20 minutes of red, green, blue and "luminance", which is a techy way of saying "I'm not using a filter".

There's also just over three hours of hydrogen alpha, two and a half hours of oxygen and a fraction under two hours of sulphur. These last three are called "narrowband" filters. It sounds complicated, but they work exactly the same as the others. They're good at picking up little fine details that wider band filters tend to blur.

Honestly, there's nothing too complicated about taking this type of photo. You have to have a mount that tracks well (mine's an NEQ6, which is the mount that people tend to bump into at the top of the stairs when they come into the showroom here). You also need an autoguider (we've got a QHY mini guide scope at the counter). Then you need a telescope (mine's a refractor, but a saxon 200DS Newtonian will do a great job) and a camera (if you haven't got a DSLR, we've got CMOS cameras).

You'll also need some software, but a lot of that's free. And learning about the techniques with the equipment and the software is where the "fun" is. Like playing golf - they tell me.

And importantly, you don't need the stuff all at once to get started.

It doesn't really matter if you start with a scope, start with a mount or even start with a camera and lens. You really won't need the autoguider for yonks. You start where you start and build your hobby from where you are.

There are so many options and you're the boss.