January: Mostly Nebulae
Spiral Galaxy IC 342 closely resembles our own Milky Way Galaxy. At a distance of between 10 and 14 million light-years, a galaxy of this size would be expected to be one of the brightest in the sky. However, because it lies only 10° above the disk plane of the Milky Way, its light is dimmed tenfold by dust within our own galaxy, and therefore was not discovered until 1895. Several prominent hydrogen clouds, termed H2 regions, populate its spiral arms. Processing. Begin processing your exposures of IC 342 with routine calibration, alignment, and combination of images. After balancing color, gently enhance your color intensity. Do not be surprised if the color remains bland or “muddy” within IC 342. You are imaging through galactic dust, which both scatters the blue light of young star clusters and dulls the red of emission nebulae. Sharpen the brighter regions of the galaxy but smooth its outer arms (Fig. 1.1).