Astrophoto of the month - October 2021 - LDN 1355 - The Helping Hand Nebula

An interesting, rarely photographed curiosity on an image by Rafael Schmall

A wonderful and special astrophotography image each month by Hungarian astrophotographers.

Basic difficulties

Several things are difficult in astrophotography. One example is to find a rarely photographed object. The other is to capture the dark nebulae of the Milky Way. Schmall Rafael succeeded in both in this one image. The astrophoto of this month masterfully depicts the dark nebula LDN 1355, nicknamed "Helping Hand", which has never been captured from Hungary before.

In the dark

These dark nebulae hide in the stellar dens of the Milky Way. They often connect to the formation locations of small-mass stars, but they can also drift in the arms of the Milky Way as simple cold molecular clouds. They have no light of their own in the visible range, and are most recognizable for obscuring more distant stars. And if the astrophoto is taken with long exposure, their brownish colour in the light of nearby stars can be observed.

In Cassiopeia

The helping hand nebula is seen towards the Cassiopeia constellation. The shape of the dust cloud glooms in the light of nearby stars, either in bluish, or sometimes in yellowish light, but we mainly see its brownish hue. Let the author tell us how he got to capture this view:

I found this object on Astrobin, one of the great international community sites, but it was still early spring. The Helping Hand nebula sounded pretty charming in English and I liked its shape, but by the time I could start, I was already running out of time to catch the object. I had to wait until the fall for the next window of opportunity to arrive.

This was the first object where I was able to fully automate the system. Both targeting and focusing, guiding and exposure were controlled by the computer.

This fall was an ideal period from a weather perspective as well. Countless times I turned the automated system towards this object at around half past 12 and then went to bed, knowing that the telescope would park itself, and then I could just get up in the morning before the first rays of sunshine.

No matter how many subjects I’ve photographed so far, I always marvel at the diversity and uniqueness of our universe, and how such a system can display it, even though the light of some objects departed when humanity wasn’t even a mere thought.