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M17 - The Omega nebula taken from our backyard

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

M17 is a fairly bright diffuse emission nebula, and is also commonly named the Swan nebula. M17 is very similar to the famous Orion nebula (M42), but it is seen from its edge, while M42 is seen face-on. Messier 17 is also about three to four times farther than the Orion nebula.

Object Designation: M17

Also known as: Omega Nebula, Swan Nebula, Checkmark Nebula, Lobster Nebula, Horseshoe Nebula

Constellation: Sagittarius

Object Type: Emission Nebula

Distance: 5,500 light-years away

Magnitude: 6.0

Discovery: October 18, 1745 by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux

In Astrophotography, getting the bright part of M17 is an easy feat, but if you would like to get some of the faint outer gases, make sure to spend some more time on gathering enough light. You will also want to keep those fainter gases in mind during your entire processing workflow, so you don’t accidentally make your image too dark and lose the data from the gases all around.


The Omega Nebula Astrophotography with the L-Ultimate Filter

September 2022

Optolong L-Ultimate Filter

Shortly after imaging M17 with Vespera, it was time to attempt it again but this time back with our regular astrophotography setup. We used a 75mm telescope and full frame color camera, once again from our backyard, but this time with the Optolong L-Ultimate narrowband filter.

The total exposure time for this image was just 2 and a half hours, as the target went behind the neighbor's trees pretty early. The filter did a great job at blocking unwanted light pollution, including the bright moon that was in the sky while imaging this!

Want to process your images following our own workflow? Get our PixInsight Guide!

Camera: QHY600C

Telescope: Radian 75

Mount: ZWO AM5

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 2.5 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Gain: 26

We made a video where we used the Optolong L-Ultimate filter on several nebulae, be sure to watch it below! In the video, we analyze the data we get and see if the filter produces any unwanted artifacts in the image, for example, star halos or reflections. We also have a written review about the L-Ultimate filter.


The Omega Nebula Astrophotography with the Smart Telescope Vespera

September 2022

In the Summer of 2022, we decided to try shooting the Omega Nebula with an All-in-One smart telescope known as Vespera.

Vespera is the second telescope by Vaonis after Stellina, which we reviewed in depth here. For this shot, we spent just one and a half hours imaging M17 from the backyard. Because of the light pollution, we used a narrowband filter, which easily attaches to Vespera's lens.

We then transferred the raw TIFF file onto our computer and processed it using PixInsight. We are very impressed with the image we were able to get, especially with just an hour and a half of exposure time! The nebula looks great, full of details, and with natural colors.

The Omega Nebula with Vespera
The Omega Nebula with Vespera


The Omega Nebula Astrophotography with a Newtonian Telescope and Triad Ultra

May 2020

Telescope in backyard Astrophotography
The gear we will be using tonight

We will show you our attempt at imaging this object from our light-polluted backyard using our $499 reflector telescope, a cooled astrophotography-dedicated camera and the TRIAD Ultra filter (click the link to read our review).

The TRIAD Ultra is a quad-band narrowband filter that allows you to image any narrowband target, no matter the light pollution. As a proof, our backyard is from a white zone, in a Bortle 9 scale. This is as light polluted as it gets.

We have a full review article and video about this filter on our website and YouTube where we image both NGC 1499 and Messier 42 (the Orion Nebula). Make sure to check them out!

Here is our final (or maybe not) image of the Omega Nebula. We may or may not add more hours to it in the near future.

Messier 17 using the TRIAD Ultra filter with the QHY128C

The Omega Nebula backyard Astrophotography - QHY128C and TRIAD Ultra filter


Camera: QHYCCD 128C

Telescope: 8" Newtonian

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 5 hours and 40 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Gain: 3200

You can get our Raw files for this target and many others by supporting us on Patreon :)


How to find the Omega Nebula?

How to find the Omega Nebula M17 in the night sky, map

Messier 17 is best seen through wide telescopes and binoculars. Only people with very good vision will be able to spot it with the naked eye under a dark site.

The Omega nebula is located in the constellation Sagittarius, near the Eagle Nebula. You can find it easily by spotting the bottom star of the constellation Scutum, or also by using the teapot stars in Sagittarius.

If using binoculars when trying to find it, make sure not to mistake the Omega Nebula with the Eagle Nebula, the Trifid or Lagoon nebulae, because they are all close to each other.


Cool Facts about the Omega Nebula

  • Discovered in 1745

  • One of the brightest star-forming nebulae

  • Home to 800 stars


Processing Messier 17

Processing the Omega Nebula was no easy feat. Things would have been much, much easier if we took some flat frames in the morning instead of packing everything up right away. For our defense, it was already super hot here in Vegas at 6AM in the morning when we woke up so it was really difficult to stay out playing with the histogram.

Do you see this ugly white vignetting on the right? That would have been gone with flats. You might not see it below but it is also present on the left. It becomes much more noticeable during the background extraction process. For now, we just cropped it out.

The Omega Nebula after stacking our Raw files
The Omega Nebula after stacking our Raw files

We processed this image using our usual, basic workflow we've been using for years.

You can get our full PixInsight workflow HERE.

What did our single shots look like?

You may be wondering what a single shot of 3 minutes from our backyard looks like. Here is one! Remember that this is with the TRIAD Ultra filter attached.

A single 3 minute shot of the Omega Nebula with the TRIAD ultra filter
A single 3 minute shot of the Omega Nebula

You can read our full review of the TRIAD Ultra filter HERE.


Final Thoughts

The image we got is great, shows a lot of detail, but is not super clean overall. We know this can be fixed by adding a few more hours to it. We also did not take flats which might have affected some parts of the image. Will we add more data to it? Well, we'll see, but if we do, we'll make sure to update this post!

Have you captured the Omega Nebula? Attach your image in the comments and let us know what you used!

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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