Spending months on the capture of his target, Dan Kusz’s image of Sh2-129 and Ou4 — the Flying Bat and Squid Nebulae — is our winner of the Photo of the Week contest on September 4, 2020.
Though the competition was fierce this week, Kusz’s talented capture from Vernon, British Columbia, caught the judges’ eyes — “best version of this amazing object I’ve ever seen; a very difficult target and he’s put lots of hours on it,” one judge noted.
Sh2-129 is a relatively faint emission nebula in Cepheus, a neighbour of the larger and more often imaged IC 1396.
“Sometimes referred to as the ‘Flying Bat’ nebula, this region is characterized by Ha emission as well as a small, mixed emission and reflection nebula (vdB 140), seen in the lower portion of the field, just to the left of centre,” Kusz wrote in an email. “What is most remarkable about this region is a recent discovery made in 2011 by Nicolas Outters, called the ‘Squid Nebula’ due to its shape, but more officially called Ou4. This region is characterized by a very faint OIII emission that has a bipolar shape reminiscent of a planetary nebula. Although it was originally thought to perhaps represent a planetary nebula derived from an unknown, dying star, more recent evidence suggests that Ou4 is located within Sh2-129 itself and is a bipolar outflow emitting in the OIII spectrum, moving at the same rate as Sh2-129, and possibly emanating from a triple star system located in the centre of Ou4 (HR8119, visible above as the bright star in the centre of the Squid).”
Kusz said this image was a project almost four months in the making. He said he spent more than 60 hours over the course of 24 short late spring and summer nights capturing subs for the image of this “most challenging target.”
“Starting May 8, then every clear night until August 19, after discarding several hours (over 11 hours) of substandard frames, I ended up with just over 53 hours of usable data,” he wrote. “Ever since I saw a picture of the object I wanted to capture it myself, but I had no idea the frustration that would ensue! I worked for hours/days on putting the final image together to something I was proud of.
He noted that he has seen so gorgeous renditions of this object, and he wanted to “give it justice, as well.”
“I went with a more natural approach to the final version,” he wrote. “Ou4 is an extremely faint ‘nebula.’ I wanted to make sure that it was visible in the final version, but also maintain the appearance of being very faint and natural looking. I did not want to ‘over cook’ Ou4.”
The oxygen portion of the image was taken with 37 hours of total integration time.
“It was still very difficult to isolate OU4 from the background even with that amount of time,” Kusz wrote. “I went through countless iterations of workflow to bring it out and make it look authentic. I have done some minor star reduction, but Cepheus is a very dense star field so I wanted to keep them there, just not distracting, to keep the natural feel of the image.”
Using a Sky-Watcher Esprit 80 400mm (f/5) and a ZWO ASI1600MM Pro, Kusz said his acquisition elements (for a total of 53.3 hours) were:
- R 72 x 15 seconds
- G 111 x 15 seconds
- B 120 x 15 seconds
- Ha 90 x 600 seconds
- OIII 111 x 1,200 Seconds
Our honourable mention this week goes to Siv Heang Tav for her image of the Perseid Meteor Shower from Gap Lake, Alberta.
Shooting August 13, 2020, Tav said she chased the Perseid Meteor Shower across Alberta, looking for the clear sky. She said August 13 beat the other two nights she was out capturing the shower.
“Spent 1,300 kilometres just for this big show,” she wrote, noting she the image consists of 30 10-second frames, stacked in Photoshop and edited in Lightroom. She also said she used a Nikon D500 Sigma Art 20mm at 30mm, set at ISO 4000 and f/2.
Prizes for the 2020-21 SkyNews Photo of the Week contest are sponsored by Sky-Watcher, Celestron, iOptron and The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Click here for more details on the prize packages that will be awarded to the best photos this year.