M17 - The Swan Nebula in Sagittarius


Copyright 2006 Hap Griffin

M17, informally called the Swan Nebula, is a vast cloud of glowing hydrogen gas excited to luminosity by many embedded hot, young stars of which the cloud is the primordial source material.  Through a moderately sized telescope, the brighter portion can be easily seen and resembles a floating swan with a curved neck.  The brighter parts cover an area roughly 15 light-years across while the extended fainter nebulosity covers at least 40 light-years of space.  The extremely dark background at the left is the result of a huge dust cloud which traverses the region and can be seen in wider field photographs of this area.   The Swan Nebula can be spotted in binoculars on clear nights.

M17 lies at a distance of 5000 light-years.

Date/Location:    September 20, 2006     Griffin/Hunter II Observatory    Bethune, SC
Instrument:    Canon 350XT Digital SLR (modified) through 10" Meade RCX400 
Focal Ratio:   F/8
Guiding:    Auto through Orion ED-80 w/ SBIG ST-237
Conditions:    Visually clear
Weather:    65 deg. F 
Exposure: 80 minutes total @ ISO 800 (16 x 5 min exposures)
Filters:    Baader UV/IR Block
Processing:    Focused and captured with DSLRFocus.  Calibrations, frame alignment and stacking, Adaptive Richardson_Lucy deconvolution, scaling and JPEG conversion with ImagesPlus.  Color correction, curves and levels with Photoshop CS2.  Noise reduction with NeatImage.