Bernard’s Merope Nebula

Merope Nebula image
Bernard’s Merope Nebula

This was a challenge target for me. Last month I was writing my monthly astrophotography target of the month column for Sky Safari (you will need a subscription to see it in Sky Safari Pro), I realized I did not actually have a good image of the Pleiades that featured this tiny jewel (cataloged as IC 349). I love to shoot the larger reflection nebula with a newtonian reflector because it makes beautiful diffraction spikes, but the spikes would obliterate this tiny little interloper to M45. Same with other refractors (or my Officina Stellare RH-200) I had used with longer exposures – the star Merope would swell up and swallow this nearby nebula, which physically is only 0.06 light years from the star!!

The Pleiades are a relatively bright group of stars and nebulosity, so I went for a short run under somewhat light polluted skies. I used 111 good 30 second exposures stacked for this image, and stretched VERY gently with the histogram and curves tools. The seeing was not super great that night with my Espirt 150 refractor and a Player One Ares-C Pro cooled color camera, so I confess as well I used the very nice Blur Exterminator to tighten the stars a little bit.

An interesting personal experience about this image. This is the first time since I’ve started wearing glasses (none of us are getting younger!), and just like a star test is a good way to test optical flatness, I found that when judging my star field on the computer screen, I could see… and DISTRACTINGLY SO… distortions in the star field that aren’t actually there. This can make it very hard to judge an astro image, and I now have TWO pairs of glasses. One for “most of the time”, and one for when I’m using my computer or working… um… well, truthfully that IS most of the time – LOL.

P.S. Happy New Year and Clear Skies!

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