The Cone Nebula and Surroundings (NGC 2264, 2261, 2259)

Cone Nebula
All Images Copyright Steve Cannistra

Please click here for a composite image between this Canon 10 image and my Ha SXV-H9 image used as luminosity layer.

Magnitude:  3.9 (for bluish Christmas tree cluster region)
Size: About 1 degree (including Cone Nebula and Christmas Tree Cluster region)
Distance: 2400 light years (Cone Nebula)
RA: 6h 41m 06s
Dec: 9 degrees 52' 59"

The Cone Nebula is the conical dark nebula just off center, pointing towards the prominent Christmas Tree Cluster (so named because it looks like a Christmas tree when viewed vertically).  This region is referred to as NGC 2264 and is part of a larger nebula complex called the Monoceros Loop, that includes the Rosette Nebula.   Notice the darker areas surrounding NGC 2264 that represent large regions of dust.  To the lower left is an interesting, comet-shaped object known as Hubble's Variable Nebula (NGC 2261), which is a reflection nebula that changes intensity as a function of the brightness of its associated star (R Monocerotis).  In the lower right corner is the prominent open cluster NGC 2259.

Photographic Details:

Date:  December 26, 2003
Scope:  Takahashi Sky 90 at f4.5 with field flattener/focal reducer, piggybacked on LX90 (which is mounted on a Meade Superwedge).
Autoguider:  STV with e-finder.
Camera:  Canon 10D.
Filter:  IDAS LPS.
Exposures:  11 x 5' at ISO 1600.
Conditions:  Temperature 30 degrees F; average transparency; average seeing; dry; somewhat breezy
Raw conversion, adaptive dark frame calibration, alignment, adaptive addition done in ImagesPlus; Levels, curves, and layer mask adjustments in Photoshop; selective smoothing of R, G, B channels done in Pleiades SGBNR software (occasionally "smart blur" filter was used for regions selected with the lasso tool within a given channel).  Star bloat was controlled as a final step by selecting the stars with the magic wand tool, and then applying a minimum filter (setting of 1) to reduce star size.  Final star shaping and enhancement of color saturation done with the technique described by Matt BenDaniel.  This was very difficult to process due to the faint red nebulosity of this region and the relative Ha insensitivity of the 10D.

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