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Contains:  California nebula, NGC 1499, NGC 1342, The star 50Per, The star ξPer, The star εPer, The star 40Per, Part of the constellation Perseus (Per)
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California Nebula - a Wide Field - NGC1499, 


            Gabriel R. Santos...
California Nebula - a Wide Field - NGC1499

California Nebula - a Wide Field - NGC1499

Technical card

Resolution: 3600x2400

Dates:Sept. 8, 2018

Frames: 21x120" ISO800

Integration: 0.7 hours

Darks: ~30

Flats: ~20

Bias: ~50

Avg. Moon age: 28.11 days

Avg. Moon phase: 2.25%

Bortle Dark-Sky Scale: 3.00

Mean SQM: 21.40

Mean FWHM: 2.80

Temperature: 1.00 job: 2250357

RA center: 58.555 degrees

DEC center: 36.973 degrees

Pixel scale: 9.683 arcsec/pixel

Orientation: 359.915 degrees

Field radius: 5.819 degrees

Data source: Traveller


This is a wide view on the stunning California Nebula located in the constellation Perseus, catalogued as NGC1499. This emission nebula – that emits in red, ionized by the luminous Xi Persei right above the main nebulosity – is over 60 light years across, and 1500 light years away. [1] The nebula has a large angular size, some 3 degrees across. In fact, this wide field ‘s diagonal is over 20 full moons, or 10 degrees! One curious fact is this nebula crosses the zenith (right overhead) in the latitudes where the California state is located.

The California Nebula was discovered by Edward Barnard in 1885 [2]. More precisely, Barnard wrote it was discovered by him “with the 6-inch Cook equatorial […] at Vanderbilt Univerity on Nov. 3, 1895”. The nebula was sketched and photographed in the subsequent years, especially by Simon Archenhold in 1891 and Julius Scheiner in 1892. [3]

The field is surrounded by much fainter dust – associated with Taurus Molecular Cloud, in a very pretty field, may I say. To me this dusty field simply emphasizes the nebula, giving it a sort of jewelry-like appearance in the surrounded black-brown dust. It is frequently imaged with narrowband Ha filters, which simply cuts the dust away. The molecular clouds are visible only on broadband images, taken with LRGB filters or a native color camera, like this one.

Nowadays, this nebula is a popular target for amateur astrophotographers using modest equipment. I wonder what would great astronomers/astrophotographers of the past (such as E. Barnard) would do had they access to the technology we have today!

Capturing this image is not trivial from below the Equator. NGC1499 transits at only 30 degrees above the horizon. That’s probably the reason this frequently imaged nebula is not so frequently imaged by other fellow Brazilian astrophotographers. The skies were quite dark, but due to its proximity to the horizon there were some gradients that had to be dealt with, reducing a bit the SNR, especially on the top left corner. I was pretty happy with the result, given the short time and low altitude. I think it is notable that this image was captured with relatively simple equipment – no telescope, just a portrait camera lens and entry-level camera on an equatorial mount.

This image was captured in the weekend before posting (a Brazilian holiday), in a trip to my usual site, in rural Minas Gerais. The skies were phenomenal – astronomically cloudless all night. It was a great relief – the targets at this Right Ascension (Taurus and Orion, which are usually October – December objects) are a real challenge to me. I did not have the chance to capture them properly, despite extensively planning and travelling to my dark site, in the last 3 years! The last time was in 2015, when my DSLR was not modified and I was dipping my toes in astroimaging. That is because our Spring-Summer (Sept-Dec-Mar) is the rainy period in Southeastern Brazil. I finally captured some of those targets that weekend – not only this California but also a few others, like Witch’s Head in Orion, targets I was eager to capture for quite a while. Wait for the images – I’m currently processing them! These targets were finally captured by me before sunrise, despite the very cold ~1ºC ambient temperature - it was an accomplishment!

Constructive criticism, comments and suggestions are more than welcome in the comments section – including on the new labelling. Thank you for taking your time to look at this image.

Date and Time: September 08, 2018; ~4 AM [local UTC-3 time]
Location: MG, Brazil. Rural Skies (Bortle 3-4, SQM ~21.4*calculated)
Camera: Canon EOS T5 (modded), at ISO 800
Lens: Samyang 135mm f/2.0, operated at f/2.4
Mount: Sky-Watcher HEQ5, tracking, guided
Guiding: Starguider 50mm Guidescope + ASI120mm + PHD2; ~1.3”
Exposure Detail: 21x120s or 42 minutes

References: [1] APOD; [2]; [3] Steinicke, Wolfgand [from book “Observing and Cataloguing Nebulae and Star Clusters: From Herschel to Dreyer’s New General Catalogue”]



Gabriel R. Santos...
License: None (All rights reserved)

Sky plot

Sky plot


California Nebula - a Wide Field - NGC1499, 


            Gabriel R. Santos...