Welcome to Astrospheric's Photo of the Month
Each month a member submitted photo will be showcased for the entire community to enjoy and learn from.
The best part about stargazing and solar observing is doing it with others. As you can tell from my equipment list this was no fancy setup. I deliberately aimed for simplicity to not distract from the experience. After some testing at home I realized how fiddly it was to even get a decent image of the sun. So I opted for a straightforward eyepiece and committed to just enjoying the event alongside my family, rather than being consumed by photographic concerns. However, as I shared the telescope with others during the eclipse, I found moments in between to spontaneously capture some photos. My approach was centered on cherishing the company of friends and family and savoring the overall experience, with the impromptu photos serving as bonus mementos. That day, I learned valuable insights about what matters in this hobby, realizing that, for me, it's about the people and the shared moments.
This is such a wonderful target but often overlooked. It is kinda challenging to process this data as some bright regions could cause problems. It is a large patch of emission in Cygnus at a distance of 2200 light years from Earth, just 2-3 degrees away from the very frequently images North American and Pelican Nebulae. This FOV has several bright patches and dark nebulae. You can see higher resolution of this image at: Astrobin. I captured data of this object from my bortle 7 backyard in San Jose, CA and processed in Pixinsight.
This image was captured over 9 days (between 6/27 - 7/12) in Reno Nevada, from my Bortle 4 backyard. This was my first big project with the Explore Scientific ED127. But the moon was starting to kick at 50% June 27th. I decided to make the ALP-T filter put in some honest work, so if it was clear, I imaged. The moon was progressively getting brighter and brighter over the coming nights, but I stayed the course. After everything was said and done, I was at just under 34 hours worth of data (406, 5 minute frames). This is the result from that stack in Pixinsight, using a Foraxx derived pallet.
Tommy returns with an incredible view of the Pelican Nebula. Here are the capture details:
I captured this image from my home in west Mobile, AL (Bortle 6). My usual setup is on my driveway between my home and my neighbor's home 20 feet away on a spot where I am shielded from most cultural lighting and can barely see Polaris poking out from the surrounding trees. Conditions are less than ideal, but I'm out there imaging almost every night I can!
I first removed the background gradient with GraXpert, then opened in PixInsight to finish processing with SPCC (w/ background neutralization), BlurXterminator, EZ Processing Suite's EZ Stretch, SCNR, StarXterminator (screen stars), Range Selection Mask with Local Histogram Equalization, Curves, Screen Combine Stars (pixel math), NoiseXterminator, ICC Profile Transformation.
As always, credit for the original work goes to God. He is the author of life and the ultimate creator. Thank you to my supportive family and friends! Thanks to Masters of PixInsight and Adam Block Studios for their thorough classes and instruction. Thank you to Daniel Fiordalis for developing this site which continues to be a supportive space for folks to share their creative endeavors in astrophotography.
The image is composed of 33.1 hours of data taken over seven nights between March 19 and April 10 of 2023. It was taken from my personal observatory in my backyard in Copley, Ohio.
The data was acquired with a SkyWatcher 300P Newtonian (12" f/4), a ZWO ASI2600MC main camera, a ZWO ASI178MM and ZWO OAG, a ZWO EAF, a SkyWatcher EQ8-R Pro mount, and a NexDome. NINA was used for imaging automation. PHD2 was used for guiding. Processing was done in PixInsight.
Tommy dazzles APOM again with this incredible capture of M106. Here are the acquisition details from Tommy.
This months image comes from Simon Cao in Southern California. Here are the details.
Here are the SH2-238 and SH2-239 reflection nebulae, surrounded by cosmic dust within the constellation Taurus. I took this photo from Wofford Heights, California (Bortle 3) with 3-minute sub-exposures for a total of 5 hours on the night of 11/26/22. I then stacked all the sub-exposures via stacking software (Astro Pixel Processor) and edited in Photoshop to produce the final image.
To take this picture, I used a dedicated color astronomy camera (ZWO ASI2600MC Pro) paired with the Rokinon 135mm camera lens without the use of any filters. I also used an equatorial mount (Sky Watcher GTi), an electronic focuser, and a guide camera - all controlled via a mini pc (the ASIAIR Pro).
This months photo comes from Tommy Lease in Parker, Colorado. Tommy was able to capture 2022 E3 (ZTF) in incredible details. Here is the information:
Here is my contribution to Comet 2022 E3. This was a really tough target to process because the comet is moving at a different speed than the stars. I had to process the stars and the comet separately, then remove the stars and add them back into the comet image using PixInisght. There are still some visible star trail artifacts that I couldn't completely remove, but overall Im happy with how this one turned out. Equipment and image details are below.
Huge thanks to Tom for submitting this incredible photo of IC63 for December's APOM!
Imaging from my backyard in Menifee, Southern California has always been a challenge. My bortle 6/7 skies are rapidly becoming brighter and getting to image higher magnitude targets is becoming rarer for me. I took a gamble on the "Ghost of Cassiopeia" Nebula using the Optolong L-Extreme filter in my imaging train. My goal was to get as much integration time as the weather would allow. I left the rig up for seven nights and took advantage of every night that was not cloudy, which turned out to be four of those seven. Because my light dome to the North is so high (about 40 degrees) I was limited to roughly 4 hours per night of data, which finally gave me 14.3 hours of integration time. My only newer method on this shot was to use a flashlight and white T-shirts for my flats. These turned out to be much more beneficial in the final stack than my "twilight sky" method of flats.
The final image is much brighter than most "ghost" images I've seen. My reasoning here was that as I stretched the data there was so much detail in the head (IC 63) that I wanted to get as much as possible without blowing out the highlights. I also decided to keep Navi (gamma cass) in the shot; it just looks like the nebula is reaching out toward the star!
My workflow is all in Photoshop CC and consists of
Thank you all for sharing your remarkable shots with me and the world. And thanks to Daniel Fiordalis for making this site happen! This is such a great forum to share our new and old ways of doing things in a non-threatening and supportive environment. I continue to enjoy learning form you all. My goal is to worship God through these shots for as long as I can-He makes them; I just capture them!
Blessings and abundant clarity,
Dana Weisbrot once again blows our minds with an incredible capture of the ISS transiting the moon. Here are the details...
This image was taken November 9th, 2022 in Stamford Connecticut. I was shooting from the Springdale Elementary School baseball field parking lot, which is coincidentally the elementary school I graduated from 39 years ago! I used a Celestron C9.25 working at F6.3 paired with a ZWO asi294mc pro shooting 19 fps. This image is comprised of all the frames of the video that contained the ISS which were blended together. Even with the focal reducer, the bottom of the Moon didn't fit in the FOV, so I had to blend that in later also from a separate shot I took a few minutes after the transit. If anybody else is interested in doing these types of shots, I use Transit-finder.com to find transits happening close to home.
Since the ISS was in shadow I had to rely on the time from a well calibrated clock. I use dimensions 4 to update my laptop time. Five seconds before the transit time I start to record the video. When I see the ISS pass I stop the video. I use PIPP to extract all the frames into Tiff files then find the frames with with ISS in them. I then blend them together using Gimp. Camera settings: Gain: 197, Exposure : .5 ms.
This months photo captures the Pleiades and the surrounding area including the dust clouds. Simon also submitted a "starless" version of the image which really enhances both the Pleiades and the dust surrounding the open cluster. Here are the details...
I took this photo in Yucca Valley, near Joshua Tree, California, aggregating over a hundred 3-minute sub-exposures (5 hours total exposure time) over the course of 3 nights (9/8/22 - 9/10/22). I then stacked all the sub-exposures via stacking software (Astro Pixel Processor), and edited in Photoshop to produce the final image. With darker skies (bortle 4) and a fast lens (I had it at F2), I was able to capture some of the fainter dust surrounding the "Seven Sisters" - something I've never really attempted before from my apartment in the city.
This image was taken with a dedicated color astronomy camera (ZWO ASI294MC Pro) paired with the Rokinon 135mm camera lens while using a UV/IR cut filter. I also used an equatorial mount (Sky Watcher GTi), an electronic focuser, and a guide camera - all controlled via a mini pc (the ASIAIR).
This month's planetary photo comes from Cape Coral, Florida. Thankfully Chuck made it through Hurricane Ian safely, and we're so thankful to have him contribute such an incredible photo! Here are the details.
I took this image from my backyard in Cape Coral, Florida. We have very good skies here for solar system imaging so my seeing ranges from 7/10 to 9/10 almost every time I get out. The seeing is very important to image the planets. That rare occasion that I do get bad seeing my images are blurry no matter how many frames I take. I've been using ASICap video capture to capture the images and I try several stacking programs and pick out the best pic to start with. I also try different wavelet applications in Registax and Astrosurface to get the smoothest image. I just started to use Affinity for main photo editing, and Topaz denoise or Topaz sharpening to do final processing if needed. I did use Topaz sharpening on this image but try to do the least amount possible. Astrosurface was used for most of the processing and Affinity to color balance and curves.
This month's beautiful image comes from David Jenkins in Ayr, Ontario, Canada.
The Majestic Elephant's Trunk. From my Bortle 5 backyard, I captured just over 15 hours of data in S,H, and O filters through my 100mm refractor to reveal the faint dust within this iconic summertime target. Each subexposure was 5 minutes in length and all were combined and stacked in PixInsight.
This month's incredible photo comes from Milton, Wisconsin. Larry Stall explains the specifics in capturing Sharpless 115 in such incredible detail.
A chaotic patch of sky in Cygnus, including Sharpless Sh2-115 and Sh2-116, planetary nebulae Abell 71 (PK085+04.1), Weinberger 1-10 (PK086+05.1), and various Lynde's Bright and Dark nebulae.
Captured Jun3 27-29, 2022. About 10 hours' integration consisting of 45x90" RGB, 67x180" Ha, 52x180" OIII, and 58x180" SII. Calibration, stacking, and processing done in PixInsight, final adjustments in Photoshop CC.
I had imaged the main nebula Sh2-115 (large blueish structure), previously in narrower perspective from different angles. I decided to try a wider angle with the APS-C camera and the Baby Q, and de-center the large nebula to pick up surrounding darker structures. The faint bubble-like planetary nebula (Weinberger 1-10) at the upper left was a complete surprise.
It seems fitting that the winning photo during the month of summer solstice is an incredible capture of the sun and the filaments reaching from the surface. Chuck captured this photo from South West Florida. Here are the details.
I live in SW Florida and took this shot in my backyard. I used the Lunt 60 Tha single stack with a 2x Televue barlow and the ASI1600mm camera. Acquisition was done using ASICAP and stacking was done in AutoStakkert using 450 of 600 frames, Seeing was very good. I used wavelets in Registax to sharpen and then added the false color in Photoshop. This is a single image and not a composition of the surface and the prominence. I accomplish this by setting the exposure and gain and sometimes boosting the gamma up a little so to get the surface detail and see a little of the prominence. When taking this to Photoshop I use shadow and highlights which makes the prominences pop out and with the sliders you can control the surface and proms. This technique only works on the brighter prominences. I also used Topaz denoise to smooth out the background.
This months photo comes from the Afton Forest Preserve in Illinois. Dipak Patel captured the The Whirlpool Galaxy in beatiful detail!
This months photo comes from a journey to the dark skys of New Mexico. Jelieta (Gigi) captured this stunning photo of the Orion nebula in stunning detail! Thank you so much for the story, Gigi!
800 frames of lights, 100 frames of flats, 100 frames of darks, 100 frames of biases were downloaded through Bridge, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, processed in Photoshop.
Actually, I don't know if I can duplicate or replicate the same result because what matters most when capturing deep dark sky object is how much night sky pollution is present when you capture the images. I processed some of the images I captured for 4 months of travelling south but each image is different from each other.
Before we travelled south my husband James bought me Pixinsight, but I can't use it for my images editing since it is complicated and I don't know where to start. So, I stacked all the images in Deep Sky Stacker and processed the image in Photoshop. I used the basics in Photoshop, after all some users said, "Great image is great image!" I used the RAW editing, levels, and curves. That makes it so simple to me too because I spend the whole night standing in the dark stargazing while my gear capture the frames and sleep in the day time. A woman who was born in the tropic braving a long stinging frigid winter night. It was a big challenge to myself because I spent my 40 years in warm weather, for what I do now is Life Changing! While setting up my telescope people were passing by and became curious and were asking me questions like... Are you an astronomer? Do you have backgrounds in Astronomy? My answer was, "No, I was an Elementary Mathematics Teacher, but I have tremendous LOVE of the night sky and I have intense curiosity to discover something in the dark night sky!"
At the middle of the bitter cold nights when I already have frozen hand and running nose I said to my self, "No Pain, No Gain!" and, don't ever stop for you only have started your quest!
This months photo comes from Jim's backyard in Indiana and captures NGC2264 in beautiful detail. The image contains a widefield view of the Cone Nebula and the Christmas Tree Cluster.
This months photo arrives from Del Rio, Texas and shows the dense nebulosity of Orion, Horsehead, and Flame nebula as well as the surrounding area. Additionally, the removal of stars in the image field gives us a new perspective of this popular area of the sky. Thank you so much to Robert for sharing this photo!
This months photo arrives from Ranger, Texas and makes out the intricate details in the Witch Head Nebula. David's process for capturing this beautiful photo follows.
For this image, I used 70 x 3 minute subs at gain 50 with no filters (aside from the installed IR/cut filter). Stacked in Astro Pixel Processor using default settings. Once stacked, I used Pixinsight to do a generic workflow including Crop, Photometric Color Calibration, EZ denoise, EZ soft stretch, then some star reduction and color saturation. Once done with Pixinsight, it was over to Photoshop to do some finishing touches including Camera Raw Filter to adjust appearance of the image to taste and a little Topaz Denoise to smooth it out a bit.
Tom Marsala captures the Jellyfish nebula in beautiful detail with long integration time from his backyard in Menifee, California. Here are the details from Tom.
"The Jellyfish experiment" Well, more of an experiment for me than for others. This was my first attempt at the Jelly AND a long integration (long for me, anyway). Up until this photo, my longest integration time was 10 hours and that was before I modded my Canon 6D, so this one was a real exciting opportunity. We had a huge high-pressure dome over SoCal that week, the humidity was low and the transparency was excellent the whole week (AND the moon was new!). Using the Optolong L-enhance filter on my modded 6D, I shot 270 4-minute, guided exposures @3200 ISO for three nights straight, with darks (30) and flats. I used my homemade DIY ultralight-weight truss 13.1" Newtonian mounted on my EQ6R mount (if you recognize the 13.1" size, then, yes-that used to be a Coulter Odyssey1 1 Dob from my youth!). I combined in Deep Sky Stacker, aligned the RGB in the histogram, and processed in Photoshop CC. My equipment is pretty crude by today's ZWO and APO standards, but I am attempting to squeeze every ounce of capability out of it!
My continually evolving Photoshop workflow consists of
The integration time of 18 hours really aided in keeping the noise down during stretching. Using an uncooled DSLR is always a challenge but with winter I can keep the subs pretty cool! I have never considered any shot that I have taken to be even close to being compared with the amazing shots that you all post here. My equipment is fairly standard and mediocre, but being able to finally get to this point in my 43 year amateur career where I am actually shooting and processing with you guys is a HUGE blessing for me! I have learned so much from all of you and am inspired by your shots every day! Keep up the good work!
Larry Stall delivers spectacular color and composition in this month's photo of the California Nebula (NGC 1499). Here are the details.
The data for this image was collected from my Bortle 5 backyard, in Milton WI, over the nights of November 2-3. It was during the new moon phase.
Calibration, stacking, and processing done with Pixinsight, final adjustments in Photoshop CC
I started out doing visual observing with an SCT and Alt-Az mount. After retiring from engineering machine control systems, 4 years ago, I started pursuing astrophotography. I find it a challenging and rewarding hobby. It is a field that provides endless possibilities limited only by one's budget and imagination. I'm still learning and gradually improving.
This months photo captures the Andromeda Galaxy in beautiful detail. Scott Garrod captured this in a backyard near Parksville, BC.
This months photo comes from Corpus Christi, Texas. Here are the capture details for this amazing photo from David Adam Pyle.
I'm fairly new to Astrophotography, and it took me a good while to understand that more integration time meant better quality imaging. It was so easy to want to catch as many objects as I could in a night, but I was not producing the quality I wanted. This image was a result of me trying to slow down, and dedicating multiple nights to a target. I ended up with 9.5 hrs of integration of Ha (180" subs), and 7.5 hours of integration between SII and OIII (180" subs) using my QHY163M and Baader Narrowband Filters in a Bortle 5 location of Corpus Christi, TX. I had recently received an Explore Scientific 8in CF Astrograph f/3.9 before this target, and it really made my images take off compared to my old Orion 8" f/4.9. This OTA was guided with a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro mount and a QHY5III290 guide camera in a QHY Mini Guide Scope. An ES HRCC was utilized to reduce the coma from this quick scope, and everything was imaged using NINA, stacked with DSS, and processed with Pixinsight. This was also one of the first times I had tried to do star reduction, as well as integrating Topaz Sharpen and Denoise into my workflow.
This months photo comes from Salem, New York. Here are the details from Andrew, including a good reminder for all of us to back up our data regularly!
Here's the story behind the image. As far as the data acquisition, things were pretty straightforward. I was contacted by my friend who owns the dark site with good news. The sky was forecast to be clear and smoke free, and the moon was setting around 11pm, so we needed to get up there and take advantage. It was one of those nights where everything just worked perfectly. I got setup and started gathering subs. Started with RGB, because those are the most important to snag under dark skies. I ended up finishing that sequence with 2 hours of darkness left, so I was even able to gather some luminance data as well. It just couldn't have gone any better. It was a beautiful night. The next day I processed the image in Astro Pixel Processor. It was such nice data to work with, and it didn't take long to get the result you see. I uploaded the image to astrobin, and less than an hour later, my hard drive crashed! I wasn't able to back up the data beforehand, so all the data is lost except the full res jpeg. Knowing others appreciate this image makes losing the data less painful though!
This months photo comes from the East Coast and captures an incredible summertime favorite for many. Here are the details from Jason.
I was amazed when first seeing Hubble's "Pillars of Creation" image back in 1995, so when I began astrophotography 3 years ago this target was definitely on my list. It wasn't until this summer that I had the chance to image the Eagle Nebula, and I was equally amazed that I was able to capture my own version of this iconic region of space from my backyard just outside Baltimore, MD.
Total integration was just over 4 hours
Acquisition was done with NINA, and the raw images were stacked in AstroPixelProcessor. The resulting images were processed with Photoshop CC in the "Hubble Palette", where Sulfur is assigned to the red channel, Hydrogen to green, and Oxygen to blue.
Clear skies everyone :)
In June, the East Coast of the US and Canada (as well as the Northern Territories and Northern Alaska) were treated to an Annular Solar Eclipse. June's photo comes from Rowayton, Connecticut. Dana Weisbrot captured the Devil's horns in extrodinary detail as the sun rose. Here are the details from Dana.
I shot this photo at 5:28 am, June 10th, from a private beach on Bell Island in Rowayton, Connecticut. Since the Sun would be very low to the horizon at maximum eclipse I had originally planned on shooting from the top floor of a parking garage situated high on a hill, however, a few days before the tenth, I remembered the beach that I had previously shot Comet Neowise, and thought it may be better. I drove down to the beach with my trusty compass to check if the Sun would be rising in the right location. It seemed like it should work, but I wasn't positive. The morning of the tenth I left my house at 4:55 am, and started to drive to the beach, but I wasn't sure I was making the right choice. When I got there, I could see where the pre sunrise glow was coming from and it looked to be good. I set up my tripod on the beach and took a rough guess of the exposure settings. When I realized the Sun was breaking above the horizon I started taking a lot of shots at varying exposures. I was very nervous that I would blow my opportunity since the Sun was rising quickly. As the Sun was rising I had to keep moving the tripod to the left to keep the Sun positioned between the boats and had to constantly adjust the exposure settings since the Sun was getting brighter. There were a lot of clouds around and I wasn't sure how my photos were coming out, but in the end I got several nice shots.
Sunspots incoming! We've entered the 25th solar cycle, which is predicted to be stronger than the 24th and peak around 2025. May's shot comes from Statesville, NC, and captures AR 2822 in glorious detail! Here are the details from John.
Shot May 14th at 09:44am local time using my homemade BIG RED Solar Telescope, a five inch f/9.5 and a Hydrogen Alpha QUARK Chromosphere by DAYSTAR Filters at prime focus. The camera was a ZWO ASI174mm.
I shot 3,000 serial frames in 30 seconds using the Sharpcap app. I stacked 12% of the very best images, then sharpened the result in Registax. I colorized and made final adjustments in Adobe Photoshop CS6.
Galaxy season continues with this incredible capture of M81 & M82 from Akron, Ohio. Colin captured about 30 hours of data between February and March over 6 nights in the backyard.
The image was taken with:
This months APOM comes from the dark skies at Pinnacles National Park in San Benito County, California.
NGC 5364 is a "grand design" spiral galaxy found in the Eastern part of the constellation Virgo, over 50 million light years away from us. In this image it is accompanied by a few other elliptical and spiral galaxies located between 40 and 70 million light years away, but also by the galaxy cluster Abell 1809, that sits at over 1.1 billion light years of distance. Abell 1809 is visible in the left portion of the image, about halfway from the top, and looks like a cluster of faint, yellow stars... until one zooms in to full resolution and sees that the "stars" are actually small fuzzy galaxies, almost 20 times farther than the foreground galaxies.
Acquisition and processing:
This month's APOM comes to us from Houston, Texas and captures the conjunction in great detail. Here are the photos details from Steve.
This HDR image of Saturn (magnitude +0.6) passing 0.1° west-northwest of Jupiter (magnitude -2.0) was taken from my backyard in Houston, Texas about 32 minutes after sunset (17:59 CST) on 21 December 2020. Last time the two planets were this close in angular separation was on 17 July 1623, and next time will be on Ides of March 2080.
Imaging was obtained using a Nikon Z7 camera directly coupled to a Celestron 9.25" f/10 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and tracked with a Celestron AVX mount. A total of 5 x 1 min videos with varying ISO (64, 100, 200, 400, and 800) were acquired using the camera's movie mode, 4K UHD 2160p at 30 fps. An image was created from each of the videos with different ISO by cropping and stacking the best 25% quality frames using PIPP and AutoStakkert. Details of the planets like Jupiter's cloud bands and Saturn's rings were then accentuated using wavelet transform in RegiStax. Details were best seen using ISO 64 for Jupiter, ISO 200 for Saturn, and ISO 400 and 800 for Jupiter's moons. Final HDR image was created using Photoshop by combining each of the images acquired with different ISO as layers and masking out over-exposed structures.
This month's APOM comes to us from Salt Lake City, Utah. NGC 7822, located in Cepheus, is a new star forming complex some 3000 light years from Earth.
This month's APOM comes to us from Aneroid, Canada. The Dark Shark Nebula (LDN 1235) can be found swimming in the constellation Cepheus. The large molecular cloud blots out the stars behind and contains two blue reflection nebulae, vdB149 and vdB150. Below are the acquisition details from Stan Noble.
I used a SkyWatcher 80ED telescope with ZWO 294 MC Pro & Starfield 1 x's field flattener, Altair Astro 66 LightWave & GPCAM 327C for guide scope & camera, with PHD2 & NINA for capture. Over 2 nights I gathered 324- 120 second light frames & stacked & calibrated in Astro Pixel Processor with 30 Dark,Flat & Flat Darks frames. I processed in PixInsight & Topaz Adjust.
This photo of comet NEOWISE was taken at the Thomas Lakes Trailhead / Mount Sopris Trailhead near Carbondale, CO. This is a Bortle class two location, but the comet's location in the sky was directly over Carbondale, so there was some light pollution below the comet (left side of the frame). The light pollution was removed partially with a filter and partially with Lightroom to give the sky a more consistent color.
The photo was taken with a Sony A6100 with a Rokinon 135mm F/2 lens stopped down to F/2.4 to give the stars a little more sharpness. The Rokinon lens has an astrokraken bracket system to make it easier to use, and I used a sharpstar2 bahtinov filter to get my focus perfect. Lastly, I have a 77mm Hoya RA54 filter to help cut down on some of the light pollution. I used a Vixen Polarie tracking mount that was manually aligned to Polaris, using a laser pointer and the polarfinder android app to make it a little easier to align. After taking a few higher ISO short exposure test photos to line up the comet in the frame, I started taking longer exposure at a lower ISO. This was a single 2-minute exposure at ISO 800. It was processed in Lightroom and then exported as a TIFF to Denoise AI for a quick final sharpening and noise reduction before being rendered as a final JPG. There is nothing added to the photo, but there was a little bit of healing brush used to remove a satellite trail. This photo is not cropped, and no color was added that was not part of the white balance adjustment. I like my photos to be as realistic as possible, so I normally avoid photoshop or composite photos.