Sunday, October 15, 2017

Double Cluster, Heart Nebula and Soul Nebula

This is the second image with my Pentax-based imaging system:

(click on image for full resolution image)
The three main objects in this image are the Double Cluster, the Soul Nebula (top) and Heart Nebula (below). They are all in the Perseus arm of our galaxy (earth is in the Orion arm) and in similar distance. The Double cluster is 7500 light years away, both nebulae 6500 light years.
The Double Cluster is relatively young (12.8 million years) and appears to be slightly blueshifted. This is a result of its movement - it races towards earth with 38/39 km/sec!
The cluster can be seen with the naked eye in really dark areas and easily with a binocular. It was discovered 130 B.C. by the greek astronomer Hipparcus.
Both nebulae are actually one gigantic complex that is 300 light years wide! They are connected by a bridge of gas. Both are birthplaces of stars in their center (which is why their centers are less red: a lot of gas has already been consumed by new stars). The stars in their centers are just a few million years old - and they are younger the further they are away from the center.

Processing this image was made difficult by the bloated stars in the LRGB images:

I compensated for this already in the linear state by shrinking the stars using the MorphologicalTransformation process in Pixinsight (again, using one of he awesome tutorials on

First, I created a "contour star mask" from the stretched image:

This star mask should cover exactly the stars. Here is how the inverted mask looks::

Now, we apply the MorphologicalTransformation process:

And here is the result before and after:

It's a subtle difference (which is good as we don't want to completely change the image) - but makes a huge difference further downstream.