North American Nebula

High overhead in the late summer is the North American Nebula and the companion cloud the Pelican Nebula. Designated NGC 7000, the North American Nebula is a large cloud of gas and dust spans more than ten times the area of the full moon as seen from Earth. The name is derived from the shape of the cloud that resembles the North American continent.

The nebula’s distance was recently measured with data from the Gaia astrometry satellite that measured the precise distances to 395 stars lying within the HII region. The data snow that the North American and Pelican nebulae lie 2,590 light-years away. The size of the whole HII region is calculated at 140 light-years across, and the North American Nebula is about 90 light-years from North to South.

The image was captured using narrow-band Hydrogen Alpha, Sulfur II, and Oxygen III emission filters. It was was captured remotely with the Takahashi FSQ-106EDX4 refractor at the IC Astronomy Observatory in Spain, through the facilities of the web site The original capture of the data was done by Peter Jenkins.

I processed this image in my studio using the Halpha and Oiii filtered data using Pixinsight and Photoshop. I mixed the filtered data to approximate the natural colors of the region.

These “natural” colors are not detectable with the eye,but only are apparent in long-exposure photographs.

An alternative approach for the same captured data would be the Sulfur II (mapped to red), HAlpha (mapped to green), and Oxygen III mapped to blue. This is the so-called “Hubble Pallette” that us used for many images from the Hubble Space Telescope.

For more about this fascinating region of the sky, visit

~ by Rsmith on December 25, 2020.

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