Thor’s Helmet

February began with me finding a new astrophotography group on Facebook.  It’s a great place to share tips, techniques and just chat with likeminded astro nerds, and I’ve certainly gained a lot from the short time I’ve been a member.

They run a monthly “Object of the Month” competition which sees many of the members pointing their scopes at the same patch of sky to try and win internet glory.

The object for February was NGC 2359, more commonly referred to as Thor’s Helmet Nebula.  Initially I’d discounted this target, as it currently only rises to 23 degrees above the horizon, and with my own local horizon obscured by some trees I really didn’t think it was worth the effort.

However, towards the end of the month group member Andy Thilo posted his work-in-progress image (taken a mere 15 miles away from me as the crow flies). The detail in Andy’s image was excellent (and indeed, he went on to win the competition) but it sparked my interest – and with only 4 days to go until the deadline for entries, I decided to have a crack.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, because I now really wish I’d decided to have a go earlier, as I may have ended up with more than the 6 hours of data used to produce these two images. Leaving it late in the month gave me the benefit of seeing what I was up against, and with most entries opting to go for the traditional HOO rendition of this target (leaving a red/blue image) I decided to opt for a modified FORAXX rendition (top image).

I’ve also processed this in HOO for comparison purposes (bottom image).

Data was acquired using the Askar PHQ130 and my 533MM Pro monochrome camera.

We now look to be cloud-bound for the foreseeable future so my mind is pondering new distractions – and I’m seriously considering having a stab at making some video of the processes involved in taking these shots. It’s something several of my colleagues have asked for – and it seems like it could be a bit of fun – I quite enjoy the editing and post production side of things, but shooting enough b-roll to make engaging content is going to be tricky, and I’ll also need to overcome feeling stupid about talking to a camera in the garden in the wee small hours of the morning!

As ever, please click the images to view the full resolution version.