Useful filters for viewing deep-sky objects

Дата канвертавання24.04.2016
Памер47.05 Kb.

by David Knisely

Prairie Astronomy Club
There are a number of different filters available on the market today for improving the views of various Deep-Sky objects, with most coming in one of three classes: 1. Broad-Band "light pollution" filters, 2. Narrow-Band "Nebula" filters, and 3: Line filters.

The broad-band "Light-pollution Reduction (LPR) filters are designed to improve the visibility of a variety of Deep-Sky objects by blocking out the common Mercury vapor, Sodium, and some other emission lines from man-made or natural sources which contribute to light pollution, while letting through a broad range of other more useful wavelengths. Since the eye is mainly a "contrast detector", this selective screening out of some of the background skyglow increases the contrast and helps Deep-sky objects stand out more noticeably. While these broad-band filters do not eliminate the effects of

light pollution or make the objects brighter, in many cases, these filters can improve the visibility of some deep-sky objects to at least some degree. The greatest improvement in the overall view is often found with emission nebulae, but broadband filters can also give a slight contrast boost to some

reflection nebulae and a few of the larger more diffuse galaxies. In addition, larger versions of these broadband filters which fit over camera lenses can be somewhat useful for photography of wide star fields when some skyglow is present.

Some available broad-band filters are the Lumicon Deep-Sky, the Meade Series 4000 Broadband, the Celestron LPR, the Thousand Oaks Type 1, and the Orion SkyGlow. The broadband filters can offer a noticable boost in contrastand visibility of the fainter outer detail in emisson nebulae over non-

filtered views for objects like the Orion Nebula (M42), the Lagoon Nebula (M8), the Merope Nebula, the Trifid (M20), and a number of others. However, the improvement is not as noticable on star clusters or galaxies. I have found that using the filter on larger and more diffuse galaxies like M33, M81, M101, NGC 253 and NGC 2403 in my 10 inch when weak skyglow is present will help boost the visibility of the detail, but the effect is fairly mild. On star clusters, there is even less of an effect, since some of their

emission falls in the portions of the spectrum blocked by these filters. In that case it may be better to use slightly higher power on some of the smaller objects to dilute the light pollution effect a bit. Since some light is blocked by the filters, there can be times when a few objects may even look fainter from a dark sky site when using a broad-band filter than without one. Severe levels of light pollution may also be too much for the broad-band filters to handle effectively, so you still want to find as dark an

observing site as you can. The broadband filter has an additional bonus, as it does work fairly well as a blue filter for observing Jupiter and for bringing out the white clouds and polar caps of Mars. In summary, the broad band "light pollution" filter can be useful in compensating for some light pollution, but may not be the most impressive filter intended for deep-sky use.


Narrow-band "Nebula" filters, as the name implies, are mainly designed for viewing many emission nebulae. These filters allow only the bright pair of emission lines of Oxygen III, the Hydrogen Beta emission line, and wavelengths between H-beta and the OIII lines to get through. Narrow-band

filters darken the background skyglow significantly without hurting the nebula, and are often of considerable help when observing in mild to moderate light pollution. The filter's improvement of the view of emission nebulae is usually superior to that of the broadband filters, as many faint nebular

objects become much easier to see (without the filter, some may not be visible at all!). Even the more prominent nebulae which are visible without filters gain considerable detail and contrast with the narrow band units. However, you still need to use proper dark adaptation, averted vision and low to moderate powers (3.7x to 14x per inch of aperture) to get the most out of these filters.

Some available narrow-band filters are the Lumicon UHC, Meade Series 4000 Narrowband, Thousand Oaks Type 2, and Orion Ultrablock. The UHC and Meade Narrowband also have a deep-red passband for the Hydrogen Alpha line. Both the UHC and Ultrablock will, for example, often show the Rosette Nebula TO THE UNAIDED EYE when you look through them. Even under a really dark sky,

the contrast and detail improvements are impressive, and most observers continue to use their narrow-band filters at such dark-sky sites. One neat trick for finding tiny planetary nebulae is to "blink" the objects by holding a narrow-band filter between the eyepiece and the eye. The stars in the field will dim somewhat, but the planetary nebula will remain undimmed, thus standing out from the background stars.

In comparison, the UHC and Ultrablock have very similar characteristics, although the UHC has a slightly higher light transmission factor in its primary passband than the Ultrablock, which may be helpful for viewing faint nebulae. The Meade Narrowband filter has a passband quite similar to that

of the UHC. Spectroscopic comparison of the two filters reveals that the Ultrablock's passband is more rounded and slightly narrower than the more flat-topped UHC, with falloffs in light transmission towards the passband edges, especially towards the H-beta side. The UHC also shows a red "leak"

passband including the H-alpha line (the Ultrablock doesn't have one), which may contribute to the image brightness with larger apertures. The Ultrablock's more rounded and slightly narrower passband may be reasons why some observers have reported a bit darker field and slightly higher contrast

under light pollution with some objects using the Ultrablock. At times the Ultrablock has also been slightly less expensive than the UHC, but when not sale priced, the two filters are of similar cost. Both will perform very well, and the overall difference between them is very slight. However, these "nebula" filters usually slightly reduce the brightness of most star clusters, reflection nebulae, and galaxies, although in moderate light pollution, a narrowband filter may still be of some use on these objects with

larger apertures. Photographic use of these narrow band filters is also not recommended.


Line Filters are very narrow passband specialty units which are designed to let in only one or two spectral lines from emission nebulae, such as the close pair of Oxygen III lines or the Hydrogen-Beta line. In the line filter category, the Oxygen III (OIII) filter is the real standout. Its very narrow

bandwidth allows only the pair of emission lines of Oxygen to get to the eye, and for many planetary and some diffuse emission nebulae, the boost in contrast has to be seen to be believed! The Veil and Helix Nebulae look like photographs in a 10" with the OIII filter, and some of the "green box"

emission nebulae in SKY ATLAS 2000.0 jump out at you. You may even see some nebulae which are not shown on some atlases. This filter is often the best one for many planetary nebulae, with the "blinking" technique becoming vastly more effective, as the stars nearly vanish, leaving the planetary standing out like a sore thumb. However, since the bandwidth of the OIII filter is so narrow, it may hurt some nebulae with significant H-beta emission somewhat, like the nebulae around Gamma Cygni or the Horsehead. Differences between this filter and Broad-band filters like the Lumicon UHC are mainly in nebula visibility and contrast. Many nebulae show a slightly larger area of nebulosity in the UHC filter with slightly higher brightness, but in the OIII filter, they will often have more contrast and dark detail. However, the OIII filter really dims the view of star clusters and galaxies even more than

the narrow band filters do, although observers with large telescopes may find the OIII useful for bringing out a few emission nebulae in other galaxies, like the HII regions in M33. The Lumicon and Meade models also have a substantial red passband, and on bright emission nebulae like M42 and M8,

weak red color in parts of the nebulae have been reported visually using moderate to large apertures. Recently, Thousand Oaks has produced its "Type-3" Oxygen III filter. It doesn't seems to have the tiny "red-ghosting" secondary star images that the Lumicon model does, yielding more point-like star images, although its overall performance in enhancing nebulae is quite similar to the Lumicon model. Meade has also introduced its own OIII filter.

Another somewhat less-used line filter is the H-Beta. As the name indicates, the filter only lets through the H-Beta emission line of Hydrogen, and is best known for its effect on the Horsehead Nebula, the California Nebula, the Coccoon Nebula, and a few others. On an 8" to 10" scope, the

Horsehead Nebula goes from near invisibility to visibility, and the California Nebula becomes fairly easy, gaining a great deal of contrast and filamentary detail. An improvement over non-filter use for additional objects like M42/43, the North America Nebula, and a few others can also be noted, but in many cases, these other objects can appear somewhat better overall in the UHC or OIII filters. The H-beta can also be used to observe some of the structural details of some brighter nebulae by comparing the H-beta view with that in other filters. However, the H-beta does not usually work well on most planetary nebulae, as it nearly wipes out some of them and greatly dims most of the rest. The total number of emission nebulae which the H-beta will significantly improve is somewhat limited. Many of these "H-beta" objects tend to be fairly faint to begin with (like the Horsehead) and require larger apertures for decent views even with the filter. Unless you REALLY like looking at these faint H-beta targets, you may be able to do without the H-Beta filter. Thousand Oaks also makes their "Type-4" version of the H-beta filter.

For recommendations, if you can afford only one filter, get a narrowband filter like the Lumicon UHC, Meade 4000 Series Narrowband, or Orion Ultrablock (whichever is least expensive at the time). If you can afford to get two filters, the OIII makes a good companion filter to a narrowband one but remember to use them with an eye that is properly dark adapted and employ averted vision. Filters won't make the objects brighter, but in many cases, they can make many of them a lot easier to see. Have fun!

David Knisely, Prairie Astronomy Club


LPR Filters

Item #94126A, LPR Filter (Model A - for 1-1/4" eyepieces)

Item #94127A, LPR Filter (Model B - for back threads of SC's)

Light Pollution Reduction (LPR) Filters are designed to selectively reduce the transmission of certain wavelengths of light, specifically those produced by artificial light. This includes mercury, and both high and low pressure sodium vapor lights. In addition, they block unwanted natural light caused by neutral oxygen emission in our atmosphere (i.e. sky glow). As a result, Celestron LPR Filters darken the background sky, making deep-sky observation and photography of nebulae, star clusters and galaxies possible from urban areas. LPR Filters are not used for lunar, planetary or terrestrial photography.

While blocking unwanted light, Celestron LPR Filters permit the transmission of more desirable wave-lengths. The wavelengths included are hydrogen alpha, hydrogen beta, doubly ionized oxygen and singly ionized nitrogen. This will improve your viewing of emission nebulae, both from urban and rural settings. Some examples of objects that will show improved contrast are: the Orion Nebula, the Rosette Nebula, the North American Nebula, the Veil Nebula and the Helix Nebula.



Sirius Optics 1.25" Nebula Contrast Enhancement Filter

This 1.25” Sirius Optics contrast enhancement filter acts as a light pollution reduction (LPR) or “nebula” filter, but does not block desirable starlight and flatten the image as drastically as a conventional LPR filter. Sirius Optics considers the effect of conventional LPR filters to be overkill in many observing situations. While they effectively reduce the haze of city light pollution so that emission nebulas stand out more clearly against a darker sky background, they do it at the cost of a deterioration in the light transmission and color fidelity of stars. Stars scattered around and embedded in emission nebulas become markedly dimmer, with only the blue-green component of their light getting through the filter. Blue-white, yellow, and red stars are dimmed and color-shifted disproportionately, so you can’t effectively tell their true color, number, or brightness in relation to the surrounding nebulosity.

More Information

 · Images of Some Features




1 oz


1 year

The Sirius Optics contrast enhancement filter is a compromise between no filter and the heavy filtration of a conventional light pollution filter. It will not darken the sky as much as a conventional light pollution filter, nor dim the stars as drastically, but rather increases the overall contrast between the stars and the sky background while it enhances nebula detail.

The spectral region with significant light scatter is toward the blue (440-470nm). This scatter is seen during the day as the blue sky. This portion of the spectrum is cut off sharply by the contrast enhancement filter. The ionized oxygen transmission lines of nebulas at 496nm and 501nm are passed with about 90% efficiency. The yellow region of starlight is left largely untouched. This keeps stellar brightness near normal, with only some minor color shift. The resulting image has been described in reviews as a “purist view,” one that is more natural than the “flatter” and “I’m looking through a filter” image seen through a conventional LPR filter. In describing the appearance of the Lagoon Nebula through the CE1, a reviewer commented that, “the CE1 made the sky blacker with a great view of the gas clouds and associated star cluster (about 36 stars visible in cluster). The nebulosity had almost doubled in size. Dark lanes were visible. The impression was that of a very natural and aesthetically pleasing view.” On planetary nebula M27 (the Dumbbell) the reviewer commented that “the CE1 showed a bit more than the profiles and details that would be visible in those photos we’ve all seen. The lobes showed their brightness variations with more starkness. The loops fully extended from the “apple core” and really showed well for a 6” aperture. The star field wasn’t suppressed that much at all. The dimensionality of this view was strikingly impressive. It left the ‘air’ in the view.” The reviewer further commented about the filter in general, “the CE1 draw unanimous praise . . . what stuck out most to all of us in regard to the Sirius Optic’s CE1 was that ‘dimensionality.’ This word was spoken repeatedly . . . The CE1 was clearly welcomed by those of us who don’t like to use filters. This filter just won't squash the life out of the field of view and didn’t have that ‘I’m looking through a filter’ feel to it.”

Unlike conventional nebula and LPR filters, the Sirius Optics CE1 filter will improve the contrast for a large variety of objects – star clusters, reflection nebulas, and galaxies – not just emission nebulas. Observers in a very heavily light-polluted area may find the CE1 filter to be less effective at enhancing nebula visibility than a conventional LPR filter, however. The Sirius Optics CE1-1 filter is mounted in a metal cell that fits conventional 1.25” eyepiece filter threads. It is supplied in a hinged plastic storage box.

Meade Series 4000 Broadband Nebular Filters:
For dramatic increase in visual and photographic detail in deep-space emission and reflection nebulae.
Meade Series 4000 Broadband Nebular Filters incorporate the very latest in interference coatings technology. Each Broadband Nebular filter (# 908 B or # 911 B) includes more than 40 coating layers to reject, with precision, unwanted light from urban light pollution while passing critical nebular emissions with minimal reduction.
Technical Basis of Meade Broadband Nebular Filter:

As shown in the transmission graph, Meade Broadband Nebular Filter strongly rejects the light of sodium- and mercury-vapor lights as well as natural airglow and auroral emissions. Conversely, the strong nebular emission spectral lines, transmitting in the visually sensitive regions primarily at 486nm (Hydrogen Beta) and 496 to 501nm (Oxygen-III, or OIII), are passed through the filter with high transmission percentages.

The effect of the filter is that nebular light reaching the eye is observed visually in dramatically increased detail, while the effects of unwanted city lights are greatly reduced.

The Meade Broadband Filter also passes photographically- important Hydrogen Alpha nebular light at 656nm largely unattenuated, making the filter a valuable aid in the photography of deep-space emission nebulae as well. The contrast between galaxies and the night-sky backdrop is also typically enhanced by the filter, but because galaxies emit light in a much broader range of wavelengths than nebulae, the effect is generally not as dramatic in these cases.

Two models of OIII Broadband Nebular Meade Filters are available:

Meade Series 4000 Broadband Nebular Filter #908B (item 07522) :
Threads into the barrels of all Meade 1.25" eyepieces, and into the barrels of virtually all other 1.25" eyepiece brands as well.
Clear aperture for # 908-B is 26mm.

Features of Meade Series 4000 Broadband Nebular Filters # 908B and #911B:

  • Strongly rejects the light of sodium- and mercury-vapor lights as well as natural airglow and auroral emissions

  • Nebular light reaching the eye is observed visually in dramatically increased detail

  • Effects of unwanted city lights are greatly reduced

  • Passes photographically- important Hydrogen Alpha (H?) nebular light at 656nm

Enhance your deep sky viewing with the latest in multi-layer coating technology. Our filters transmit desired wave-lengths in a very steep slope vs. gentle transition slopes in competitive brands. This means better contrast and overall performance.

LP-1 Broadband

For slight to moderately light-polluted areas.

LP-2 Narrowband

For heavily light polluted areas

LP-3 Oxygen III

For diffuse and planetary nebulae.

LP-4 H-Beta

For Horsehead, California nebula and other faint nebulae.






















Oxygen III














Minus Violet







База данных защищена авторским правом © 2016
звярнуцца да адміністрацыі

    Галоўная старонка