This 50mm round unmounted Astrodon Generation 2 Hydrogen-alpha filter has a very narrow 3nm FWHM (F
idth at H
aximum transmission) passband for the very highest possible contrast when imaging the H-alpha emission wavelength of 6563 Ångstroms. H-alpha transmission is typically 90-92% with longer focal ratio (f/9 or f/10) scopes. A scan of each individual filter’s passband is included with the filter.
The filter rejects light outside the desired H-alpha passband to a mere 0.0004% transmittance from 300nm to 1150 nm. This yields a very high signal to noise ratio and high contrast, even in highly light-polluted areas and with a bright Moon nearby. Contrast is substantially higher than the 5nm Astrodon filter in such situations, and even more so when compared with conventional “ultra-narrow” 7nm to 12nmn passband filters. In addition, the filter edge is blackened for high contrast.
The filter uses a 3mm (+/-0.05) thick striae-free fused silica substrate, rather than ordinary glass. The filter faces are polished flat to an accuracy of 1/4 wave (or better) and 30 arc second parallelism. For durability, the filter uses the hardest multiple layer dichroic sputtered coatings available. The filter comes in a hard plastic snap-lid storage case.
Unlike some other narrowband filters that use a sandwich design comprised of several pieces of glasses epoxied together, the single substrate design of the Astrodon H-alpha filter minimizes or eliminates internal reflection halos. Astrodon filters are renowned for not producing halos around stars and not leaking near-infrared light that can bloat star images.
This 50mm unmounted filter drops into the filter receptacle of any color filter wheel that accepts standard round unmounted 50mm filters, or into the color filter wheel integrated into SBIG Research Series cameras. It is parfocal with Astrodon's other high-performance narrowband (Sulfur II, Oxygen III), near-IR, LRGB, and CRGB filters. This eliminates the need to waste valuable observing time finding the correct focus when switching between filters in a filter wheel.
Narrowband filters shift into the blue with very fast optical systems. This Astrodon filter is designed to have lower blue spectral shift with faster optics than a conventional filter. By placing the emission line at the left edge of the flat-topped passband when used with f/9 to f/10 and higher systems, any shift into the blue with a faster focal ratio simply moves the emission line towards the center of the passband. This keeps the desired transmission at a constant 90% or more, all the way down to an f/4 or f/4.5 system. By way of contrast, conventional filters with a passband centered on the emission line at f/10 shift the emission line off the passband as the focal ratio gets faster and blue spectral shift comes into play.
Transmission drops off to about 80% when this very narrow/high contrast 3nm filter is used with an f/3 system, but this is offset by the shorter exposure times inherent in such a system. It is instructive to compare the Astrodon transmission with that of higher-priced special order 3nm filters from other manufacturers, who claim only a >70% transmission, with no specification of the telescope’s focal ratio.
Astrodon keeps this 3nm filter in stock, unlike other manufacturers who generally only make their 3nm filters on a special order basis, usually with a 2-3 month delivery time.
In addition to monochrome images of H-alpha emission features using this filter, many people use a combination of H-alpha, SII, and OIII filters for tri-color CCD imaging, rather than the traditional RGB filters. This allows them to emulate the amazing false-color Hubble Space Telescope images, such as the famous “Pillars of Creation." One of the feature images below (courtesy Astrodon Filters) shows the “Gulf of Mexico" area of the large North American emission nebula (NGC7000) near Cygnus. This was taken with an SBIG ST10XME on a Takahashi FSQ106N refractor using H-a, SII, and OIII filters. Green represents ionized hydrogen from the H-alpha filter. Red represents ionized sulfur from the SII filter. Blue represents ionized oxygen from the OIII filter. It is clear that the “Great Ridge" is strong in sulfur. Thus, narrowband filters can provide additional detail about the structure of emission nebula – not to mention striking images.