Updated: Jan 13, 2020
The North America Nebula is a large emission nebula that can be found in the constellation of Cygnus. Just like most other famous nebulae in the night sky, NGC 7000 got its name from its shape, which reminds us of the shape of the continent of North America. Central America is also part of it, it actually makes the most popular part of this object: The Cygnus Wall.
The Cygnus Wall is what we were aiming for when centering this target in our telescope.
Because of its size (about four to five times that of the full moon), there was no way for us to image the entire nebula with our telescope, unless we spent many nights on it and assembled a mosaic. That thought crossed our mind, but it seemed like way too much trouble and we might not be able to finish it this year if the sky did not cooperate.
We could have used our usual 8" Newtonian telescope and most likely have the just the Cygnus Wall perfectly framed on our camera, but we wanted more!
We asked OPT if they could loan us a much wider telescope for both this target and the one chosen for Episode 13 of Galactic Hunter, and they did! We were then able to capture the entirety of NGC 7000. Well, almost...
The North America Nebula is very faint, and it is difficult to really see its edges when doing test shots. Not being familiar with the wide telescope we received, and not preparing ahead, we were convinced that our framing was good enough when seeing the Cygnus Wall appear near the bottom of our screen, but the top part of the nebula still got a little cut off.
Processing NGC 7000 was a bit of a challenge, and we had to go through our processing steps several times over the week to really get a final image we would be happy with. We attached our first result lower in this post, but you can see our final image below.
NGC 7000 (HaSIIOIII), with the ASI 1600MM
Camera: ZWO ASI 1600mm Pro Mono
Telescope: Meade 6000 series 70mm APO Astrograph
Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount
Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini
Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR
Total Exposure Time: 3 hours
Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes
Filters: Ha (1 hour) / SII (1 hour) / OIII (1 hour)
LOCATING NGC 7000
The North America nebula is located in the constellation of Cygnus, the swan.
The star at the tail end of Cygnus is its brightest star, Deneb, and moving westward you will find your targets.
Despite being very large, you will not be able to spot the nebula with the naked eye, as its gases are spread out and quite dim. You might see a patch of gray light with a pair of binoculars or small telescope (e.g. 3”), but know that this is very unlikely due to the very low surface brightness of this object.
For better results, the use of an UHC filter is recommended when looking at the target through a telescope, but you will not be able to see any shapes or details until taking a long exposure shot with a camera.
Discovered in 1786
The brightest stars form the “Little Orion” asterism
The Cygnus Wall divides NGC 7000 from the Pelican Nebula with dark nebulosity
SINGLE SHOT & PROCESSING OF NGC 7000
We used three filters to capture NGC 7000: SII, OIII and Ha.
Below you can see the stacked images for each filter.
The North America Nebula, stacked images for SII/OIII/Ha
Just like the majority of nebulae in Summer, especially the emission nebulae, the Ha filter reveals more details than the other two and is overall much cleaner.
As we mentioned earlier, the processing was a little bit tricky, as it was difficult to get the right colors and keep a low amount of noise overall. Below you can see our first attempt at processing NGC 7000, which you can compare with our final image at the top of this post to see the difference. Although there seems to be more crisp details in the one below, we weren't really happy with the colors and the amount of noise.
Our first attempt at processing the North America Nebula
QUICK NOTE ABOUT THE MEADE 70MM APO ASTROGRAPH
What do we think of the loaner scope we were able to try for capturing NGC 7000?
The telescope we used is the Meade 70mm F/5 refracting Astrograph. We never used a refracting telescope before, so this was interesting! You cannot attach an eyepiece with this telescope, as it is built just for Astro-imaging. You also don't need to collimate it, how great!
Our main challenge was, believe it or not, to balance the telescope on our mount. We had to request a longer dovetail from OPT to be able to push the scope more forward, allowing the weight or our camera and filter wheel to be more towards the center.
This was a quick and easy fix, but it did force us to waste a clear night under the desert sky.
Besides this problem, aligning the scope and imaging with it from beginning to end was a breeze!
You can watch Episode 13 of Galactic Hunter and see us use it to image both M8 and M20.
NGC 7000 may be very faint, but it easily becomes a very bright and colorful object when photographed under dark skies. Its size might be too large for most amateur astrophotographers' equipment, especially if, like us, your only telescope is 800mm or more, but this does not mean you cannot image a specific area of the North America Nebula. The Cygnus Wall is perfect for medium sized telescopes and its dark gases look stunning in front of the colorful background.
As for the processing, you might not be happy with your first results if, like us, you are not used to process narrowband images. You can also capture this object with your DSLR camera, although you will most likely need an Ha filter to bring out the details.
If you are not pleased with your processing results, we suggest you do not give up and keep trying when you feel motivated to reprocess all your files. You may end up with a much better image in the end!
Even though are final image is slightly cut off, we are still happy with it and are thankful to have been able to try out a different telescope. Make sure to watch our 13th Episode to see this little scope in action on a different target!
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