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IC 5070 - 20 hours on the Pelican Nebula from the backyard

Updated: May 18, 2023

Very pleased with how our IC 1318 (The Sadr Region and the Butterfly Nebula) image turned out with over 40 hours of data, I decided to start another large project, this time with a different telescope and mount. This was also our first time using the 3nm narrowband Chroma filters!

This time, it was time to hunt another flying living thing... not a butterfly, but a Pelican!

Object Designation: IC 5070, IC 5067

Also known as: The Pelican Nebula

Constellation: Cygnus

Object Type: Emission Nebula

Distance: 1,800 light-years away

Magnitude: 8

Discovered in: 1786 by William Herschel

refractor telescope and MyT mount backyard
The setup used to capture IC 5070

For the Sadr Region, I used the tiny Meade 70mm APO Refractor telescope and our Orion Atlas EQ-G mount.

This time, I wanted to use our new mount, the Paramount MyT from Software Bisque (make sure to read our full review!) and yet another Meade: the Meade 6000 series 115mm APO which is pretty much a bigger version of the 70mm.

I wouldn't be able to carry the whole setup in and out easily this time as I did with the small Meade 70mm and Atlas EQ-G. I still wanted to make sure I made my life as easy as possible though and so kept the camera and all the cables attached to the telescope at all time.

Every night, I would carry the mount out, attach the counterweights followed by the telescope/camera so it was still pretty quick.

It gets very hot pretty early here in Vegas so I would wake up every morning at 5AM to put everything back inside or the metal on the mount would burn my fingers after sunrise.

The Pelican Nebula contains several "Herbig-Haro" objects, which are jets of gasses and other matter being ejected at hundreds of miles per second by the newborn stars.

Herbig-Haro 555 in the Pelican Nebula
Herbig-Haro 555 in the Pelican Nebula

The photo on the left shows HH 555 (the thin "pillar" near the right), the most active Herbig-Haro object in the Pelican Nebula.

These objects, when colliding with the surrounding dust of the nebula, create gigantic bright shock waves. These jets will disappear over time as they disperse in space.

The Pelican Nebula from our Bortle 9 backyard in narrowband

IC 5070 the pelican nebula backyard Astrophotography in narrowband using the Meade 115mm APO and ZWO ASI 1600MM

Interested in a print? You can get one HERE!

Raw Data available on Patreon


Telescope: Meade 115mm APO

Acquisition: TheSkyX

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 20 hours and 20 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Filters: Chroma 3nm Ha/Sii/Oiii

Gain: 139


How to find the Pelican Nebula?

How to find the Pelican Nebula constellation map

The Pelican Nebula is located in the constellation of the swan: Cygnus and is best photographed in Summer. Look for Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation at the tail end of Cygnus and move slightly westward until you find the Pelican.

Despite being very large, you will not be able to spot IC 5070 with the naked eye, as the gases are spread out and quite dim. However, a pair of binoculars or small telescope (e.g. 3”) will reveal a faint patch of gray light.


Cool Facts about the Pelican Nebula

  • The "Cygnus Wall" is a dark molecular cloud that divides the Pelican Nebula from the North America Nebula

  • The Pelican Nebula is designated as both IC 5070 and IC 5067

  • The Nebula is very active and will look completely different in the future


Imaging the Pelican Nebula Widefield

June 2022

In 2022, I wanted to revisit the Pelican Nebula but this time with a smaller refractor paired with a full-frame camera, the QHY600M.

Using a full-frame camera means that the field of view would be much larger than with a cropped-sensor camera. Because of that, and the fact that the telescope was much smaller, I also was able to include the beautiful North America Nebula in the frame, as well as a bunch of other gases all around!

I love this image, it shows so much going on in this area of the sky, and it is so colorful!


Camera: QHY600M

Telescope: Radian 75

Mount: GM1000HPS

Processing: Pixinsight, with RC-Astro plugins


Total Exposure Time: 15 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Filters: Chroma 3nm Ha/Sii/Oiii

Gain: 56


Want to learn all aspects of astrophotography in the most efficient way possible, and see how we imaged the Pelican Nebula from our backyard?

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Processing of the Pelican Nebula

Processing the Pelican Nebula was super fun. It is such a colorful target, especially in the Hubble Palette combination (SHO).

As soon as the channels were integrated into a color image (read our tutorial about how to combine narrowband channels if you are not sure how to), I processed the file using our usual, processing workflow that can be found HERE.

Processing the Pelican Nebula in PixInsight
Processing the Pelican Nebula in PixInsight

What did each narrowband channel look like?

You might be curious to know how much data was visible for each narrowband channel. Below you can find the stacked image for each narrowband filter.

  • Hydrogen Alpha (left)

  • Sulfur II (center)

  • Oxygen III (right)

The Pelican Nebula was more prominent in Hydrogen Alpha (not a surprise), but you can see that both Oiii and Sii filters also showed some great textures.

What scared me is that our S channel looked... terrible. It was very fade and was suffering from what appeared to be terrible light leak. I tried to ignore it and played with DBE very harshly to be able to get as much data from it as possible.

Below is what our three channels looked like when combined. To be honest, this was already so pretty and I almost wanted to just not process it at all and be happy with that 😅

Pelican Nebula SHO stacked Hubble Palette

In September 2020, when recording the processing section of the Galactic Course, I decided to reprocess this data but this time using StarNet on PixInsight.

I first removed the stars near the beginning of the processing workflow, and was more aggressive in bringing out faint details and as much gas as I could. Check out our tutorial if you'd like to know how to use StarNet on PixInsight.

The starless result on the Pelican Nebula is attached below:

The Pelican Nebula Starless

As a fun experiment, I intentionally kept processing the object even after exporting the version that I liked (on the left), and went absolutely bananas on the details, clarity and dark areas to see how much of the faint dust lanes I could bring out. The result looks incredible on small screens (perfect for Instagram!) but is definitely not clean enough to be viewed on a large computer screen.


Final Thoughts

The Pelican Nebula is such a beautiful object! Make sure to frame the object the way you want it, and plan your shot the day before with apps or software like Sky Safari or Stellarium to get as much gas as you can depending on your field of view.

Have you captured the Pelican Nebula? Attach your image in the comments and let us know your acquisition details!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter





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