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NGC 6820 - A Beautiful Emission Nebula imaged from our Backyard

Updated: May 18, 2023

NGC 6820 is a beautiful emission nebula located in the constellation Vulpecula. It surrounds a bright open cluster, designated as NGC 6823.

We imaged this target from a Bortle 9 white zone... our backyard in Las Vegas! We spent a total of 5 hours and a half imaging this object in narrowband using our refractor telescope.

Object Designation: NGC 6820

Also known as: Sh2-86

Constellation: Vulpecula

Object Type: Emission Nebula

Distance: 6,000 light-years away

Magnitude: 15.0

Discovered in: 1864

NGC 6823 - Open Cluster by NGC 6820 nebula
NGC 6823 - Open Cluster by NGC 6820

On the left is a cropped image showing the open cluster within the nebula.

The cluster is known as NGC 6823, and looks beautiful as it is seen overlapping so much gas! It also is very close to this massive dust pillar coming from the right side of the image.

The blue colors you see on that picture is mostly made up of Oxygen. As for the orange gas, it is made up of Hydrogen-Alpha, with a little bit of Sulfur gas as well!


NGC 6820 from the Backyard with a Monochrome Camera

We imaged this object from home using our brand new mount! 🥳 Make sure to watch our video about this mount and the tripod it came with on our YouTube channel, it has some really cool features!

10Micron mount with SVX130 telescope and QHY600M camera
The setup used to capture NGC 6820!

On the right is an image of the entire setup ready for night time!

The telescope is a 130mm refractor from Stellarvue, with an attached Moonlite focuser (that big red thing!) and the QHY600 Monochrome camera. We reviewed both the One-Shot-Color and the Monochrome versions of this camera so make sure to check it out!

We also have a guide scope/guide cam on the top along with a Mini-PC (Nuc) and Pegasus Powerbox for all our power and USB needs!

Balancing this heavy setup requires 3 counterweights (6kg + 6kg + 3kg) all the way down the counterweight shaft.

Below is our full image! The nebula itself can be seen in the center, and a ton of much fainter gas can be spotted all over the frame. Pretty good considering this is only 5 and a half hours of total exposure!

Our image of NGC 6820

NGC 6820 Emission Nebula in Vulpecula astrophotography


Camera: QHY600M

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: 10Micron GM1000 HPS

Accessories: Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser / Pegasus Astro Ultimate Powerbox

Processing: PixInsight with RC-Astro Plugins


Total Exposure Time: 5.5 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Gain: 56

Want to see how we imaged this object, watch the video below!


How to find NGC 6820?

How to find NGC 6820 in the night sky, constellation map

The nebula NGC 6820, along with the open cluster NGC 6823 can be found in the constellation Vulpecula. Vulpecula is mostly known for being home to the famous Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27), but it also hosts NGC 6820, NGC 6823, and another open cluster, NGC 6885.

NGC 6820 is neither very large or very bright, so don't expect to spot it with the naked eye or binoculars. It is unsure whether this object can be observed using a telescope under a dark site. If you have ever attempted to look at this target through an eyepiece, let us know in the comments!

If you do not have a GoTo mount, and are trying to find this target, try to first aim for the much brighter M27. Once there, the best way to stumble upon NGC 6820 is to scan the area around the Dumbbell Nebula, as the two objects are very close to one another.


Processing NGC 6820

Processing this nebula was fairly easy. We imaged this object using narrowband filters, so I decided to combine the channels as "SHO" like we do for most of our narrowband work. SHO combinations are what the Hubble Space Telescope uses when imaging emission nebulae. Sulfur is linked to Red, Hydrogen to Green, and Oxygen to Blue.

You can see what the single frames for each filter looked like below. Each is 10 minutes long. From left to right: H / S / O.

The most challenging part about processing NGC 6820 was removing thick light trails from a low flying plane. You can see the affected frame below.

I accidentally picked the wrong pixel rejection algorithm during stacking and so the trails from the plane was still visible in the master file. I got lazy to re-stack it all (which I regret) and proceeded to process the image. I had to spend a couple hours on Lightroom at the very end trying to manually remove the trails.

PixInsight plane trail astrophotography
The frame affected by the plane trail which was not removed

If you are interested in learning how I process all our images, you can download a full PDF "follow along" file that contains 77 pages, a full 1 hour and 45 minutes walkthrough tutorial video, our custom pre-sets and even raw data HERE.


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Final Thoughts

NGC 6820 is not a very famous object, but it is one of the prettiest emission nebulae in the early Summer skies! We want to thank our friend and Patreon Georg for sending us a picture of his own attempt at capturing NGC 6820. This gave us the motivation to give it a go ourselves, and we are glad we did!

Have you captured NGC 6820? 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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2 comentarios

13 jul 2021

Nice image. Look forward to the video.

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