The open star cluster at the centre of this image is known as Melotte 15 and is embedded within a central portion of the much larger glowing nebula known as the Heart Nebula. The gnarled structure is a massive area of glowing ionised hydrogen where dust and gas clouds are sculpted by the intense pressure of the solar wind and ultraviolet radiation from the massive hot stars making up the Melotte 15 cluster.
Poor weather across Britain during autumn and winter 2015 meant there were few clear nights and it has taken over 6 months to acquire 23 hours of Ha and OIII data. Note that I am now taking 30 minute exposures with the 10Micron GM1000 HPS in combination with active optics guiding consistently delivering perfectly round stars.
Right ascension: 02h 33m 41s | Declination: +61° 23′ 31″ | Distance: 7,500 Light Years
Field of view: 42 x 28 arcmin
Camera: SBIG ST-10XME
Telescope: APM 152-1200ED F/7.9
Guiding: Starlight Xpress Active Optics SXV-LF-AO
Mount: 10Micron GM1000 HPS
Filters: Astrodon Ha (3nm), OIII (3nm)
Exposures: Ha 24 x 30 min, OIII 22 x 30 min
Total exposure: 23 hours
Image composition: Cannistra Modified Bicolour Narrowband Technique
Scale: 1.15 arcsec/pixel
Image acquired: Over 7 nights between 25th September 2015 and 13th March 2016
Image capture with MaxIm DL, FocusMax, ACP; Image processed with MaxIm DL; PixInsight Deconvolution, Photoshop CC 2014, Color Efex Pro