Astro Photography

Astro imaging is no longer a reserved territory for large scale telescopes. With modern software tools good results can be accomplished with way smaller equipment and without traveling to distant places. The photographs shown hiere were taken from my home with a corrected telescope and an equitorial mount (further information may be found in the section astro photography). The shots were primarily taken with dedicated cooled astro cameras (ZWO ASI2600MC Pro or ZWO ASI2600MM Pro with Gain 100), some were captured with a regular Nikon D750, though.

Latest additions

05/2024
LBN691, a "bright" nebula
03/2024
An Integrated Flux Nebula
03/2024
12P/Pons-Brooks
01/2024
Spiders, Flies and Tadpoles
01/2024
Dark Nebulae in Cassiopeia

Starfield

The view of the Milky Way right next to the star Altair.

The Moon

Objects within our solar system, like the moon or the sun, require a different approach to create an appealing image with a decent resolution.

The Sun

NEVER point your telescope without appropriate filters towards the sun!

In astronomical terms our star, the sun, is classified as a yellow dwarf of spectral call G2 and would be, when spotted from another location in the milky way, tiny and unremarkable. Observing the sun at higher magnifications from earth is still quite interesting and fun.

Most simple to observe are the sun spots, which change shape and their impressive size across days. For comparison I placed a picture of earth at the bottom left (of course we are not at that spot in reality!). In this image the sun has a diameter of 2120 pixels, which should be 109 times the diameter of earth so the earth-dot has a diameter of 19.5 pixels. The large sunspot has a length of about 70 pixels and could be spotted without a telescope, just using a proper solar filter.

If you already own a telescope, you may simply attach a solar filter at the opening, like the Baader Solar Kontinuum foil. After covering or, even better, removing a mounted guidescope you may point the telescope towards the sun. For proper alignment just observe the shadow of your telescope and adjust for the smallest size. The mount should be aligned good enough to track the sun for a while.

Since observations of the sun typically take place during daytime, turbulences in the atmosphere may be an issue. Luckily the sun is quite bright and allows  quite short exposure times. For this image I captured 200 frames with an exposure time of 1mSec only.

Using the mono camera I tried all filters and green, for some reason, provided the best contrast. In any case it may be useful to also capture narrowband (H-Alpha). With some luck and a strong stretch you may also spot some prominences at the edge.

Stacking and correcting the frames for atmospheric distortions was done in Autostakkert, the tool of choice for observations within the solar system.

Thanks to David Nimmervoll for that hint, he captured the sun some houres earlier on that day: https://www.astro-fotografie.at/portfolio-view/sonne/

12P/Pons-Brooks

The Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks was officially documented in 1812 by Jean-Louis Pons and acknowledged in 1883 by William Robert Brooks. But it probably already had been seen in the 14th century. This cyclical comet has an orbital period of about 71 years.

This image was taken right after dawn on March, 8th in 2024, moments before it hides again behind some buildings at my location. This probably had been my only chance to capture it.

Read more on Wikipedia.

For more information how I compose comet images, check out my Comet Workflow.

C/2022 E3 (ZTF)

After waiting for weeks the clouds finally opened for a brief moment at January, 29th (2023) and I was able to capture a total of about two hours of data from this target.

C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS)

Comets tend to have some bulky names, this one is called C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS). The image was taken on July 16th in 2022 where he was near Messier object M10, from our perspective.

For more information how I compose comet images, check out my Comet Workflow.

Andromeda (M31)

The andromeda galaxy is about 2.5 million lightyears away and yet the nearest spiral galaxy in the universe. Like to orion nebula it can be observed with naked eyes under good conditions or binoculars.

The Pinwheel Galaxy (M101)

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101 with a diameter of about 170.000 lightyears is only a little smaller in size than Andromeda, but at a distance of about 16 million lightyears it is much smaller in our sky.

The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)

A quick image of the well known Whirlpool Galaxy in a distance of 25 million lightyears. For this kind of objects some more focal length would be beneficial.

Triangulum Galaxy (M33)

The Triangulum Galaxy is just a bit further away compared to the Andromeda Galaxy but much smaller and not to observed with the naked eye. This picture is also only a crop of the original framing at a focal length of 360mm:.

Markarian's Chain

Markarian's Chain is a row of some larger galaxies contained in the so called Virgo Cluster which is estimated to hold up to 2000 galaxies.

The Leo Triplet

The so called Leo Triplet is a prominent group of galaxies M65, M66 and NGC3628 in a distance of about 35 million lightyears.

The Beehive Cluster (M44)

The Beehive Cluster M44 is an open cluster in constellation Cancer and can be recognized with bare eyes under good conditions  as a small dust cloud.

Milkyway with Sadr

The star Sadr (Gammy Cygni) is one of the 100 most brightest stars in the night sky and easy to find.

Sadr and the Cooling Tower (M29)

This image is taken from the same sky region as the previous one, but was captured with a dedicated astro camera.

Bubble Nebula (NGC7635) and M52

A nice mixture of some different deep sky objects, like the Bubble Nebula NGC7635. an emissionnebula, the open star cluster M52.

The Pacman Nebula (NGC281)

The emission nebula NGC281 within constellation Cassiopeija has some similarities with a well known computer game character.

Just another Starcluster (M4)

The globular cluster M4 in constellation Scorpio resides in a region of various nebulae which are illuminated by the nearby stars Antares and Alniyat.

The Soul Nebula (IC1848)

This exposure of the Soul Nebula, seems to be a face staring down at us with it's blue eye. Other images with different rotation or longer exposures reduce this effect significantly, as you will see in the next image.

Soul Nebula (IC1848), monochrome color

This significantly longer exposed image from the Soul Nebula reveals much more details than the shorter image taken with the one shot color camera is able to provide.

The Ghost of Cassiopeia

The faint object Ghost of Cassiopeia (IC59/IC63) is both an emission nebula (the glowing red Hydrogen) and a reflection nebula (the blue clouds illuminated by the star).

The Wizard Nebula

Der Wizard nebula is a faint emission nebula surrounding the open starcluster NGC7380. To capture this object a pretty dark sky and long exposure times are required.

The Christmas Tree Cluster

The Christmas Tree Cluster is oriented sideways in this image and therefore not that easy to realize. It is surrounded by an extended H-Alpha region and dust clouds. The entire region is cataloged as NGC2264.

A galactic snapshot

These two images of the bright Omega Nebula M17 and Lagoon Nebula M8 below prove that is not always mandatory to spend many hours to obtain interesting astronomical images.

The Iris Nebula (NGC7023/LBN 487)

The Iris Nebula in constellation Cepheus is a comparable bright reflection nebula surrounded by some dark nebulae. The catalog number NGC7023 refers to the bright open cluster which illuminates the real reflection nebula LBN 487.

The Dark Seahorse

The Dark Nebula LDN1082 or Barnard 150 is also known as the Seahorse Nebula, its laying on its belly in this framing.

Dark Nebulae in Cassiopeia

The region around constellations Cassiopeia and Cepheus is filled with several bright and dark nebulae, like this group.

These objects require a clear night without moon to get a proper image. With some luck and patience the brighter ones may be captured successfully even from a Bortle 5 location.

An Integrated Flux Nebula

Integrated Flux Nebulae are quite interesting objects, as these clouds of dust are not lit by nearby stars, like a regular reflection nebula, but from the integrated light of all stars in our galaxy.

IFNs are best observed in the darker, seemingly empty parts of the sky, away from the galactical plane. This one is named LBN628 and located next to Polaris.

LBN691, a "bright" nebula

Based on the sky survey of the Palomar Observatory around 1950 Beverly Lynds created two catalogs, namely Lynds' Catalogue of Dark Nebulae and Lynds' Catalogue of Bright Nebulae.

The original catalog data may be found online for example at the University of Strasbourg:
Bright Nebulae (LBN) Dark Nebulae (LDN).

In these catalogs dark and bright do not relate to visibility but if the nebula hides light from the background or not.

Examples for dark nebulae with catalogue prefix LDN are LDN1082 resp. B150 or LDN1174 as a dark patch of the Iris Nebula.

Objects with the prefix LBN are brighter than the background. This includes objects like LBN974, the Great Orion Nebula, which may be spotted visually even with smaller telescopes. Others are quite faint and nearly invisible on the plates from the survey, like this LBN691 next to the big dipper.

The Swan in the summer sky

The constellation Cygnus is a treasure chest for any astrophotographer. Many interesting targets on this page were found in this region.

Spiders, Flies and Tadpoles

Within the extended Hydrogen Alpha region next to open cluster M38 (on the right) there are several interesting targets like the small Fly Nebula SH2-237, the Spider Nebula IC417 in the center and the larger Tadpole Nebula IC410 on the bottom left.

Crescendo in Space

The constellation Cygnus hosts many quite interesting targets and offers plentiful motifs for any focal range.

Around the Pelican Nebula

The smaller Pelican Nebula IC5070 on the right indeed belongs to the much more prominent North America Nebula NGC7000 on the left. A dark molecular cloud in front of them splits this region into parts.

SH2-119, The Clamshell Nebula

The Clamshell Nebula SH2-119 is located in constellation Cygnus as well. Probably due to its prominent neighbor, the North America Nebula, it is often overseen. And it is not that bright as well, so it requires a longer exposure.

Primordial Soup in Cygnus

Next to the well known targets, the constellation Cygnus hosts many more or less structured areas of ionized gases, the so called H-II regions.

Heart Nebula (NGC896)

A part of the Heart Nebula IC1805 in constellation Cassiopeia. I've used additional data from a narrowband filter to enhance colors.

Der Rosettennebel (C49/NGC2237)

The hydrogen and oxygen contained in this gigantic molecular cloud with a diameter of roughly 130 lightyears in constellation Monoceros are excited from a couple of young stars and so generate the iconic shape of the Rosette Nebula.

The Elephant in LBN455

The large H-Alpha region LBN455 along with star µ Cephei and the Elephant Trunk Nebula IC1396A in a colorful composition.

 

The California Nebula NGC1499

The California Nebula is yet another starforming region with plenty of ionized hydrogen. Due to its low brightness a decend exposure time is required to reveal the finer structures.

Orion molecular cloud complex

The whole constellation Orion is an active starforming region and interspersed with various dark, reflection and emission nebulae.

In Orion

The region in constellation Orion is filled with various interesting objects, like the Flame (NGC2024) or the Horsehead (IC434) Nebulae. The less typical yellow highlights in this composition are taken from the sulphur image.

The Orion Nebula (M42)

The Orion Nebula is visible with the naked eye under good conditions and a nice target for binoculars. Its detailed and colorful structure can only be revealed through a telescope.

Pleiades (M45)

The open star cluster Plejades is a welcome object for visual astronomy. But only a longer exposure may reveal the faint blue shine from the surrounded reflection nebulae.

The Veil Nebula

The Veil Nebula is the visible light of a large supernova happened about 10000-20000 years ago. It is bright enough so it could be discovered in 18th century by William Herschel and first photographs were taken in late 19th century.

The Spaghetti Nebula SH2-240

The Spaghetti Nebula SH2-240 is a large supernova remnant with an apparent diameter of about 3 degrees and an estimated age of 40.000 years.