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

Updated: Apr 15


The Veil Nebula is a gigantic Supernova remnant divided into several sections that constitute 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 combinations!


Object Designation: NGC 6960 | NGC 6992 | NGC 6995 | IC 1340 | NGC 6974 | NGC 6979

Also known as: The Veil Nebula | The Cygnus Loop | The Veil Nebula Complex

Constellation: Cygnus

Object Type: Supernova Remnant

Distance: 1,470 light-years away

Magnitude: 7

Discovered in: 1784 by William Herschel


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)

NGC 6992, NGC 6960, and NGC 6974


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


We captured the Veil Nebula plenty of times:

  • The entire Cygnus Loop - From our backyard with a small refractor telescope and full-frame monochrome camera

  • The Eastern Veil Nebula - From our backyard with a medium size refractor and cropped sensor monochrome camera

  • The Western Veil Nebula - From our backyard with our Newtonian telescope and an OSC camera

  • The Western Veil Nebula - From the desert with our Newtonian telescope and unmodded DSLR camera

  • Pickering's Triangle - From our backyard with our Newtonian telescope and an OSC camera

Below you will see all of our attempts at imaging this region of the sky.



 

Photographing the Entire Cygnus Loop

June 2022


In the Summer of 2022, the Veil Nebula complex started rising very high in the sky again, making it a perfect target for hot summer nights. This time, I decided to use a small refractor and a full-frame camera to capture the entirety of the Cygnus Loop! The small telescope and full-frame camera combo allowed me to frame the large supernova remnant into a single field of view without having to do a mosaic. Be sure to watch the video about capturing the Cygnus Loop!


I also did not bother shooting with the Sulfur II filter, and only combined the Hydrogen Alpha and Oxygen III data. You can see the finished bi-color image below. I really like the bright blue and red colors.


The Cygnus Loop astrophotography in bi-color

GEAR USED:

Camera: QHY600M

Telescope: Apertura 75

Mount: GM1000HPS

Processing: Pixinsight, with RC-Astro plugins

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 12 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 10 minutes

Filters: Chroma 3nm Ha/Oiii

Gain: 56


On our Raw Data page, you can find a dataset for this target and many others that are perfect for practicing processing high-quality astrophotography data. The master files have been calibrated and prepared so that you can easily open them in your processing software.

The files for this image are also available for free in the Raw Data folder for people who support us on Patreon!

 

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!


Details in the filaments of the Veil Nebula

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 😃


The Eastern Veil Nebula Astrophotography from the Backyard Las Vegas

Raw Data available on our Patreon page!


GEAR USED:

Telescope: Meade 115mm APO

Acquisition: ZWO ASIAIR

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.


The Veil Nebula from the backyard with the TRIAD Ultra filter

GEAR USED:

Camera: QHYCCD 128C

Telescope: 8" Astrograph

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

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. 

One hour and a half on the Veil Nebula with a stock DSLR camera

GEAR USED:

Telescope: 8" Astrograph

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!



Pickering's Triangle Astrophotography Triad Ultra

GEAR USED:

Camera: QHYCCD 128C

Telescope: 8" Astrograph

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 9 hours and 15 minutes

Exposure Time per frame: 3 minutes

Gain: 3200


 

How to find the Cygnus Loop


Cygnus constellation map and how to find the Veil Nebula

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) which 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


 

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The Veil Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope

September 24, 2015


The Veil Nebula by NASA and Hubble Space Telescope
The Veil Nebula by the Hubble Space Telescope

NASA used the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph a section of the Western Veil Nebula.


In the image, which they processed once in 2015 and then once again using new techniques in 2021, shows an incredible amount of gas filaments, including doubly ionized oxygen (in blue), ionized hydrogen, and ionized nitrogen (in red).



The Veil Nebula by NASA and Hubble Space Telescope
The Western Veil Nebula section that Hubble shot

This is such a nice image as all the colors mix together in beautiful gradients due to the different gases present in the supernova remnant.


On the left, you can get a better idea as to where exactly in the Western Veil Nebula the Hubble Space Telescope aimed its instruments. It also allows you to get a good sense of scale about the object.


Now it would of course be nice to see the entire Veil Nebula captured by a space telescope, but that would have to be a gigantic mosaic which would take years, so let's be happy with the tiny section we have. 😄


 

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 deciding which color combination to use and process. All three combinations below (done with PixelMath) looked fantastic, but we really like how bright and blue the second option looks, 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 PixInsight workflow, which can be found 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. You can also use a full-frame camera on a small refractor telescope and try to frame it just right!


Processing both Veil Nebulae is fairly easy, thanks to their brightness and the incredible amount of detail that is fun to bring up. Pickering's Triangle is slightly more difficult, but overall also not bad.


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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