Milky Way in Cygnus

On this page a 26°×32° wide-field view of the Milky Way in the constellation Cygnus is presented in different color composites. This region is full of emission nebulae which are partially obscured by dark nebulae near the galactic plane.

All pictures below are downscaled versions. Full resolution images with more than 100 megapixels can be loaded with a Javascript viewer by clicking on the images in the first section. Selected details are shown in the second section. The third section contains a presentation of some discoveries. Image and instrument data can be found at the end of this page.

Full views

Click on the images to load a full resolution version with up to more than 100 megapixels using a JavaScript viewer.

Milky Way in Cygnus in H-alpha, blue continuum and red continuum
This image is a false color composite where H-alpha (including red continuum) is mapped to red, blue continuum (including [OIII] and H-beta emissions) is mapped to green and red continuum (without H-alpha) is mapped to blue. Reflection nebulae appear green to blue, HII regions are red. Stars in the continuum channels are partially subtracted in order to make the faint nebulae visible.

Milky Way in Cygnus in H-alpha
Legend for false color image of Milky Way in Cygnus in H-alpha
This visualization is a pseudo color image which only uses the H-alpha data (including some red continuum). It shows much more details of the emission nebulae than the image above.
Color composition: After partial star subtraction the dynamic range was compressed using a non-linear hi-pass filter. That leads to a compression ratio r which is used to calculate the color as depicted in the legend. (The legend shows the compression c:=1-r). Blue regions least compressed while white regions are most compressed. The luminance is determined by the tonal curve corrected result of the dynamic range compression.

Milky Way in Cygnus in RGB
An almost-true color image. Unlike to the other images the stars are not subtracted. This improves the visibility of dark nebulae that absorb the light from the stars behind.
Due to limited resolution of continuum channels the image is only presented at half resolution.

Selected details

Here are a few details that also can be seen using the JavaScript viewer.

SH2-117 (North America Nebula and the Pelican Nebula) in H-alpha and continuum
SH2-117 which is obscured by a band of dark dust. That dark nebula separates the HII region into two parts, the North America Nebula (NGC 7000) and the Pelican Nebula (IC 5070). It is assumed that the ionization source is J205551.27+435224.3 ([1]) which lies behind the dark nebula in a distance of about 2500 light years (Gaia EDR3).
Also see the observations section of an interactive presentation of these objects using the Javascript Viewer.
SH2-117 (North America Nebula and the Pelican Nebula), Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888, SH2-105) and SH2-112 in H-alpha and continuum
A wider view which shows more HII regions. The nebula above NGC 7000 is SH2-119 which is ionized by 68 Cygni (the bright star in the center of the nebula). Its distance according the Gaia EDR3 is about 2200 light years. The nebula in the lower half of the image is just a small part of a huge HII region in background. It is ionized by the Cygnus OB2 association whose average distance is about 5000 light years (Gaia EDR3). Smaller objects that can be seen in this image are the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888, SH2-105) and SH2-112
Also see the observations section of an interactive presentation of these objects using the Javascript Viewer.
SH2-117 (North America Nebula and the Pelican Nebula), Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888, SH2-105) and SH2-112 in H-alpha
Similar view as above but here as as pseudo-color image using H-alpha data only. That visualization emphasizes the complex structures of the nebulae.
Supernova remnant SH2-103 (Veil Nebula) in H-alpha
The Veil Nebula (SH2-103) is a supernova remnant which exploded about 10,000 to 20,000 light years ago and which lies in a distance of about 2500 light years ([2]).

Observations and discoveries

Click on the following links for presentations of interesting observations using the JavaScript Viewer. The views above shows some nebulae that cannot be found in catalogs. (The JavaScript Viewer makes it easy to identify objects using catalogs or SIMBAD and to define new objects.) Some (probably not all) of these unexplored nebulae have been collected in the list below. Click on the following links for a presentation. Notes

Image data

Images where captured with a camera array which is described on the instruments page.

Image data are:

Projection type: Stereographic
Center position: RA: 20h36, DEC: 39°
Above: North is right
JavaScript viewer: North is up
Scale: 10 arcsec/pixel (in center at maximum resolution)
FOV: 32°×26° (RA×DEC, through center)
Exposure times: Sum of exposure times of all frames used to calculate the image.
H-alpha: 9.1 d
Continuum channels: 6.0 d

Image processing

All image processing steps are deterministic, i.e. there was no manual retouching or any other kind of non-reproducible adjustment. The software which was used can be downloaded here.

Image processing steps where:

  1. Bias correction, dark current subtraction, flatfield correction
  2. Alignment and brightness calibration using stars from reference image
  3. Stacking with masking unlikely values and background correction
  4. Star subtraction
  5. Denoising and deconvolution both components (stars and residual)
  6. RGB-composition (same factor for stars and residual for the true color composite)
  7. Dynamic range compression using non-linear high-pass filter
  8. Tonal curve correction


  1. Comerón, Fernando & Pasquali, Anna. (2005). "Discovery of the star that ionizes the North America and Pelican nebulae". Astronomy & Astrophysics. 430(2). 541 - 548.
  2. Fesen, Robert A. & Weil, Kathryn E. & Cisneros, Ignacio A. & Blair, William P. & Raymond, John C. (2018). "The Cygnus Loop's distance, properties, and environment driven morphology". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 481 (2): 1786–1798.

RSS feed RSS feed Imprint Media on this page can be used under Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 license or other licenses.