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  • Justin Pickens

IC 1805 - The Heart Nebula

The Heart Nebula is an emission nebula located approximately 7,500 light-years away from Earth. This has to be my favorite image I've taken / processed to date. While this image was taken on a one shot color camera, its processed in a false Hubble palette using a RGB channel extraction technique in PixInsight.


To create this image, I stacked the 300 lights, 100 biases, 30 darks, and 30 flats in PixInsight using the WBPP script. Once completed, I completed a dynamic background extraction and color calibration on the image. Then applied SCNR at 1.0.


Next I ran the image though EZ Decon & EZ Denoise in the EZ processing suite. I ran starnet++ to create a starless layer and star layer and put the star layer aside for the moment. With the starless layer split the RGB channels and deleted the blue channel.


I used the histogram transformation tool to match the green channel as best as possible to the red channel then combined them in pixelmath using the formula r*.6+g*.4 to create a new blue channel. These were then merged in the LRGB Combination tool with L=r, R=r, G=b, and B=g. I set the saturation to .200 and check chrominance noise reduction.


From there I adjusted the blue and red channels of the new RGB image in the curves transformation tool. I applied the correct magenta stars script to fix the magenta hue in the blue parts of the image and ran SCNR again. Next, I created a range mask for the highlights and shadows and lowered the luminance & saturation in the shadows and boosted both in the highlights.


I created a new range mask with only the absolute brightest parts of the image and applied an unsharp mask at 2.5 standard deviations to add structure. I ran ACDNR with a light mask at .180 midtones at 2.0 standard deviations for some slight smoothing of noise.


Moving to the star layer I applied SCNR at 1.0 and upped the saturation with a curves transformation adjustment. I reduced the stars intensity with a morphological transformation of .5. Finally, I combined the starless and star layers with pixelmath.


I saved the image as a tif and opened it n Lightroom where I applied sharpening at 25 with masking at 80, and noise reduction at 15 with 30 contrast and 30 color contrast.


Acquisition Details:


•Imaging Scope: Apertura 60EDR

•Imaging Camera: ZWO ASI533MC

•Filter: 2” Optolong L-eNhance

•Mount: Sky-Watcher AZ-GTi (EQMod)

•Guide Scope: ZWO 30F4 Mini Scope

•Guide Camera: ZWO ASI120MM-Mini


•Lights: 300x60s, Gain 100, Temp -10C

•Darks: 30x60s

•Biases and flats



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