NGC2024 The Flame Nebula taken with SPC900NC

Posted by XTSee on 16th October , 2011

Many times I have tried to view the Flame Nebula by eye with my Orion XT10i Dobsonian, but without success (I keep thinking “It must be there, surely I should be able to see it!?”).

In professional photographs The Flame looks reasonably bright when compared to very faint nebula like the Horsehead, and it doesn’t look that much fainter than parts of the great Orion Nebula (M42), which I can easily observe with the XT10i.

So when I recently got my C6-SGT SCT telescope working with my SPC900NC webcam I thought it would be interesting to see if it was sensitive enough to capture The Flame, and below you can see the result.

The Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) is an emission nebula in the constellation Orion. It is about 900 to 1,500 light-years away. The bright star Alnitak (ζ Ori), which is the easternmost star in Orion’s Belt, shines energetic ultraviolet light into the Flame and this ejects electrons away from the great clouds of hydrogen gas that reside there. The glow results when the electrons and ionized hydrogen recombine. Dark gas and dust lies in front of the bright part of the nebula which causes the dark network that appears in the center of the glowing gas.

The Flame Nebula

The Flame Nebula

Click the picture for a larger version, then hit Back when done.

Out of interest I have tried Googling for images of The Flame that other amateurs might have taken using an SPC900NC, but generally all results I have found are where people are using this webcam only for auto-guiding on a bright star, and instead have used a DSLR or expensive CCD camera for the actual image. Of course their images are superior in quality, but I would be interested to know whether anyone else has captured the Flame with an SPC900NC?

The image shown above was created from just 6 x 2 minute exposures (plus darks, flat and bias frames) stacked, aligned and post-processed in Nebulosity, and then the detail teased out using Photoshop.

I didn’t fancy trying to take many more exposures as this was simply a test to see whether the long exposures with my modified webcam would show anything at all, but when I could just make out the wispy detail (against a background of skyglow), in a single 120sec exposure, I thought it worth a quick try to see how stacking and processing could enhance the basic image. I expect the f/3.3 Meade focal reducer helped bring in more light for the photograph.

Overall I am very pleased that I have managed to image NGC2024, and this proves that it is possible to get satisfying results from such a humble webcam! Of course bringing out the nebula severely over-exposes Alnitak.

150mm C6-SGT with f/3.3 Meade Focal Reducer, SPC900NC/LX (640×480) and WxAstrocapture, unguided
6×120s lights, darks-bias, flats-bias, Nebulosity, Photoshop (Starspikes Pro plugin)

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3 Responses to “NGC2024 The Flame Nebula taken with SPC900NC”

  1. Philip A Cruden (1 comments)

    Hi Jim, Great Blog you have and all the info you have for LX with the SPC900NC is really fantastic. I just finished doing the SC1 mod and I am ready to start shooting but I am unsure about settings so the info you have provided some great insite, thank you. Your latest shot of the flame is outstanding, amazing for a little webcam. The email I gave is for AstroGab which is a site I am part of. My Blog which is not up to date is . I am also an artist full time but my personal art can be found at (I am not trying to sell you anything). I am going to give things a try tonight with the LX and see what happens. I will keep in touch and let you know. BTW I am in AZ USA. Thanks again for the great info you have shared, Cheers, Philip

  2. XTSee (25 comments)

    Hi Phil,
    Thanks. It’ll be good to see your pics after the SC1 mod, by the way, did you also do the Amp Off mod? I wish I had done this also at the same time as I did the SC1 LX mod, because turning off the Amp makes a big difference to images. AstroGab looks like a nice site, I should probably become a member. (Sorry only just replied - been on holiday this week).
    Best wishes

  3. Christian (1 comments)

    Wow The Pics are incredible

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