IC 2944 – Running Chicken Nebula with a stock DSLR

IC 2944, the running chicken nebula, is actually an open cluster with an associated emission nebula, rich in H-Alpha. This DSO is found in the constellation of Centaurus, close to NGC 3372, the Eta Carinae Nebula.

Trying to capture IC 2944 – The Running Chicken Nebula

I had already tried to capture this open cluster, but the result was a complete fail. That time the moon was too bright, and my little old Nikon D5000 don’t like too much of faint objects like this one.

This time I was obstinate to capture it, if only briefly.

Over two nights in a row I managed to capture, in total, 6 hours with my Long Perng S400M-C 66mm f/6 refractor and a stock Canon SL1.

Yes, I wanted so much to capture IC 2944 that I reserved 6 hours of light with a stock DSLR just for it.

An emission nebula, like IC 2944, glows mostly in a well defined frequency of 656.28nm, the frequency of the Hydrogen Alpha. This frequency is right on the corner of the visible spectrum, almost on the infrared range.

Although this is visible light yet, modern DSLRs like my Nikon D5000 or this Canon SL1 I used does capture only about 30% of the light coming on this frequency. This happens because of a filter used to correct the color balance of these cameras for a day-to-day use.

What astrophotographers do? They remove this filter. Then, all the light coming from H-Alpha is captured through the sensor.

My camera isn’t modded, so… I need to do 3 times more exposure to capture the same light a modded camera is capable of.

The final work was not amazing, but I’m happy for now. I’m definitely not willing to capture it again with a stock DSLR.

Finally IC 2944 – The Running Chicken Nebula:


  • 121×180″ ISO800
  • 11 DARK
  • 30 FLAT
  • 30 BIAS


Thanks to Trevor for posting this amazing tutorial of selective color boosting on its blog. Helped me a lot!


This object proved to be a lot harder to process than I first imagined. The bright stars defile the histogram, which means that we need to be really careful to not blow up everything.

Well, this is it. 🙂 My longest and hardest project so far! I hope you like it.

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