The Veil Nebula Complex - Astrophotography (NGC 6960, NGC 6992, NGC 6974)

Updated: Jul 22


The Veil Nebula is a gigantic Supernova remnant that constitutes the Cygnus Loop. It is best photographed in Summer and stays high in the sky for a long period of time. The Veil Nebula(e) are great for stock DSLR cameras or bi-color narrowband combination!


The Cygnus Loop has three main sections:


  1. The Eastern Veil Nebula (NGC 6992)

  2. The Western Veil Nebula (NGC 6960)

  3. Pickering's Triangle (NGC 6974)



Each of these are large and fairly bright, although Pickering's Triangle can be a little difficult to image for beginners.


Below you will see our attempts to capture each of these targets. We also plan to one day image the entire region using our DSLR camera wide field!


NGC 6992 - The Eastern Veil Nebula

June 2020


Surprisingly, we never really felt excited to image this object since the day we started Astrophotography. We recently were looking for a target to image and decided to finally give NGC 6992 a go once and for all. Well, we were really surprised when we saw how it turned out! This was actually more fun than we anticipated and it didn't even require that much total integration time!


To image this object, we use two narrowband filters, Hydrogen Alpha and OIII. We did not bother with the Sulfur II filter as there isn't much Sulfur gas in this object.


You can see so much detail in the "filaments" of the Veil, especially in the Oxygen gas!



We spent two short nights imaging the Eastern Veil Nebula. The first night was 4 hours using our stock ZWO HA filter. The next morning, we received our new Chroma 3nm narrowband filters and so replaced our ZWO narrowband filters with the Chroma ones in our filter wheel. We then spent that second night with the OIII Chroma filter, this time only about 2 hours and 25 minutes before clouds rolled in. Apparently it was enough!


We are really happy about how it turned out 😃


Raw Data available on our Patreon page!


GEAR USED:

Camera: ZWO ASI 1600MM

Telescope: Meade 115mm APO

Mount: Orion Atlas EQ-G

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

Power: Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox

Processing: Pixinsight


ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 6 hours and 15 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 5 minutes

Filters: Chroma 3nm OIII (2.25 hours), ZWO 7nm HA (4 hours)




NGC 6960 - The Western Veil Nebula

June 2020


We re-imaged the Western Veil nebula in June 2020 using our full frame OSC camera and the same telescope used 4 years prior.


We did not go out to the desert this time but instead imaged it from our light polluted backyard using the TRIAD Ultra filter, you can see our review by clicking on the link.


It is really incredible to see the difference in colors and signal between this shot and the one from 2016, especially in the bits of nebulosity below the Veil.



GEAR USED:

Camera: QHYCCD 128C

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Software Bisque Paramount MyT

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: TRIAD Ultra Quad-Band

Gain: 3200



October 2016


The Western Veil Nebula is one of our favorite nebulae. We imaged this object with our DSLR camera and only spent an hour and a half of total integration time (compared to our usual 4 hours for most others) and the result is impressive!


If you look closely, you can see some faint pink and blue nebulosity all over the image, which is gas that is part of the overall Veil Nebula complex. 


GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 1.5 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 6 minutes

15 lights - 15 Darks - 15 Bias

ISO: 800




NGC 6974 - Pickering's Triangle

June 2020


We spent two nights imaging Pickering's Triangle from our backyard using the Triad ULTRA filter for a total of 9 hours and 15 minutes.


Pickering's Triangle is the largest of the three main components of the Cygnus Loop, and stretches all the way out of our frame on the bottom! NGC 6974 is also very rich in Hydrogen Alpha and Oxygen gas, and has an incredible amount of filaments all over.


It is interesting to see the Western Veil Nebula making a guest appearance in the bottom right corner of our image!




GEAR USED:

Camera: QHYCCD 128C

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Software Bisque Paramount MyT

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 9 hours and 15 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Filters: TRIAD Ultra Quad-Band

Gain: 3200

How to find the Cygnus Loop


The Veil Nebula complex is located in the constellation of the swan: Cygnus. It can be found just a few degrees south of the star Gienah, in the right wing of the animal.

The Western Veil is the easiest one to spot because of its bright star (52 Cygni) that can quickly be found with the naked eye. If imaging wide field with a DSRL camera and a lens, you can simply aim your camera at 52 Cygni and take a long exposure shot! You should be able to see the Western Veil Nebula and most likely the Eastern Veil and Pickering's Triangle near it.


This target can only be seen through binoculars or a telescope and will be difficult to spot without a narrowband filter. A 6” to 10” telescope will reveal a blurry, elongated haze, while a larger aperture instrument will allow you to resolve the gas filaments of the nebula as long as you are observing from a very dark location.


The Western and Eastern Veils are worth looking at through a telescope, but Pickering’s triangle is too faint and very difficult to observe.


Cool Facts
  • Discovered in 1784

  • Cloud of heated and ionized gas

  • Large supernova remnant that constitutes the Cygnus Loop


Processing of the Veil Nebula

Processing both Veil Nebulae was pretty easy! They are both bright and have great details that are not difficult to bring out at all. Below we have a few screenshots of the Eastern Veil Nebula that we took while processing it.

As we mentioned earlier, we used only two filters to capture this object:


  • Hydrogen Alpha (left) - 4 hours

  • Oxygen III (right) - 2 hours and 15 minutes


There were several great ways to combine these two channels into one color image, as you will below as well. As you can see on these two images, both channels yielded some great and impressive data even from the city! Both HA and OIII are dominant in this object, mostly because it is a supernova remnant and not an emission nebula where HA is almost always way more visible than the rest.




In the end, the most difficult part was to decide which color combination to use and process. All three combinations below (done with PixelMath) looked fantastic, but we really like how bright and blue was in the second option, which is why we went with it!


After combining both channels into a color image (read our tutorial about how to combine narrowband channels in bicolor if you are not sure how to), I processed the file using our usual, basic PixInsight workflow, which can be found as a PDF "follow along" file HERE.





Final Thoughts

The Cygnus Loop is a rich area of the sky that is pretty easy to photograph using any instrument! You could spend weeks capturing different sections of the complex with a large telescope, or a single night imaging the entire loop with a DSLR camera and a wide enough lens.


Processing both Veil Nebulae is fairly easy too, thanks for their brightness and incredible amount of detail that is easy to bring up.

Want a print? Visit our Prints tab or email us to get a print of any of our images!


Have you captured the Veil 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,

Antoine & Dalia Grelin

Galactic Hunter




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#EasternVeil #WesternVeil #PickeringsTriangle #DSLR #NGC6992 #veil #veilnebula #NGC6960


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