Sky Games 2023

The constellation of Cassiopeia is slowly creeping its way back to dominate the North skies in the Northern hemisphere, and it caught me by surprise. A little after midnight, I was awakened and as usual, I looked through the window. I expected to see another night of endless cloud cover, but I saw Cassiopeia rising in a crystal clear sky. I seized the opportunity to set up and pointed the telescope at the Pac-Man Nebula (NGC 281).

Starless NGC (featured image cropped and rotated)

This region is an emission nebula located about 9,200 light years away from. I collected just over 3 hours of 5-minute frames. After processing, I thought I’d use this post as a progress check πŸ™‚. See my first image of NGC 281 in 2020, my rendition in 2021, and the 2023 edition (in the featured cover image. What do you think πŸ€” ? Until next time, remember to look up and experience an amazing Universe!

NGC 281 shot in July 2020 with a Canon 77D and Askar FMA 180.

NGC 281 shot in September 2021 with Hypercam 183C and Skywatcher 72ED APO.

Gear: AA Hypercam 26C, Askar 80 PHQ, HEM27 mount, Optolong L-Ultimate; ZWO OAG + AA120mc

Exif: 40 x 5-min lights; Gain 200, Offset 3, TEC @ 10 degrees; 20 darks,

SharpCap, PHD2; AstroPixelProcessor, PixInsight; Photoshop


  1. A very interesting nebula, well captured. Every bright nebula is surrounded by a myriad of stars, many of them born in the nebula itself. I see them as an integral part of the nebula. I’m aware of the star removal technique which some use and which you demonstrate in the second image but I have never been attracted to use it. I don’t feel that stars detract from a nebula, I think they enhance it. Sorry, Drexel, I don’t mean this as criticism, just an opinion on a trend. πŸ™‚

    1. Your comment is well placed Roger. I know you love stars πŸ™‚. I actually love them too. One of the things I want to start doing is also shooting the target without using the narrowband filter and integrate those stars in the image. That way you get the rich RGB star colors. But these days with clouds, I’m only getting the chance to maximize the narrowband captures. I remain hopeful 😊.

    2. Thanks Drexel. It’s just one of those things that has bugged me. It’s a trend that seems to interest a number of astro-photographers and I guess it’s legitimate for them to do what they like, although I reckon it seriously blurs the line between genuine photography and artistic impression.

      Maybe one day they’ll introduce software that automatically removes Saturn’s rings, so you can see what Saturn really looks like! πŸ™‚

      I like the sound of your idea to shoot with and without the narrowband. I’ll be interested to hear how you go.

  2. Amazing Shots Doc! You definitely have me looking up at night!
    Blessings UpπŸ™πŸ½

  3. WOW! The 2020 image looks like beautiful jewels in the sky lol. Great shots altogether Drex. I love the starless NGC. I haven’t really seen it like this before, it’s poppin’

    1. Thank you much. There is of course a technique to getting the colorful stars in the image, which will require shooting at the target without the narrowband filter πŸ™‚

  4. A very interesting progression of images!
    I see you actually captioned the new one “Starless NGC”, and you have strictly captured the nebulosity which extends far beyond the other two images. When you look carefully you can see very good definition of the structure of the gas cloud. If I recall correctly the red is for the hydrogen and the blue is oxygen if I got that right πŸ€”.
    I actually don’t mind the other two images as I find having a few stars of different colors poking through add just a little color and accent. Pretty good timing on your part to wake up to a clear sky πŸ˜ƒ. I’m wondering if you ever actually set your alarm clock sometimes at 3:00 a.m. because you know a target should be visible at that time? That’s pretty dedicated! Anyhow good job and I look forward to your next effort! Wishing you clear skies my friend! πŸ‘πŸ™πŸ’―

    1. You’re absolutely correct. I had no idea in my wildest imagination that all that nebulosity was there in my first tries at this target. And even the black nebulous structure in the inside of the oxygen area.

      Regarding setting my alarm…oh I do this for sure πŸ™ˆ. As you said when I know a target is coming in my view at that time. Praying for a streak of clear skies my friend. Have a good weekend.

      1. You too my friend and all the best to your family and friends. You know we are under all sorts of heat alerts here. I don’t mind the warm weather but when the feels like temperature is 110 that’s getting a little warm to be outside in the midday!

  5. Wow! Wonderful image, Drexel. You were fortunate to experience that cloudless night. And one derail observation – I’ve always thought of celestial bodies being named by the ancients through eons of life on earth, but the name PacMan Nebula is making me rethink that obviously mistaken belief of mine.

    1. 🀣 interesting name huh. I suppose that pac-man ish shape 😊. I was really happy for that odd cloudless night. Just unbelievable. I’m waiting Ching each moon phase pass every night and it’s just clouds after clouds after clouds. Thank you for your kind words πŸ™πŸΎ.

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