Fall in love with astrophotography with these 10 space objects

Mar 22, 2023

Antoine & Dalia Grelin

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

Fall in love with astrophotography with these 10 space objects

Mar 22, 2023

Antoine & Dalia Grelin

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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Astrophotography is one of those fields that is half science and half art. And Rick calls it right. For astrophotography, “sometimes science is more art than science“. This is a highly technical field of photography, which means that there is a learning curve. Capturing most (but not all) space objects requires dedication. But the good news is that improvements are fast, and the rewards are amazing!

If you are considering getting into astrophotography, (hint, you should), here are ten space objects that will get you totally inspired for the craft.

M31 – The Andromeda galaxy

fall in love with astrophotography - M31 space object

When you look up at the night sky, you might not expect to be able to see a galaxy – but it’s completely possible! The Andromeda Galaxy is our closest galaxy neighbor and is visible to the naked eye without equipment. Especially if you are at a dark enough site. Imagine what you can achieve using a camera… This image was taken an hour away from Las Veg, and it shows the beautiful spiral arms of M31 space object and its bright core. You can also see two blobs of light, M,32 and M110, two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Andromeda Galaxy! (not a bad harvest for one photo)

M104 – The Sombrero Galaxy

fall in love with astrophotography - M104 The Sombrero Galaxy deep sky object

Unlike other popular galaxies, this one is different because it’s seen nearly almost perfectly edge-on. The beauty of M104 space object, also known as the Sombrero Galaxy, is the duality of its incredibly bright core and dark spiral arms. One of the toughest challenges when photographing this galaxy is finding an exposure balance. Too long of an exposure can blow out the core. Too short and you won’t bring out the details in the arms. Part of astrophotography is enjoying the challenge of each deep sky object you photograph – and each one is different! This beautiful image was taken with an affordable beginner telescope and an old DSLR camera.

M81 & M82 – Bode’s Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy

M81 & Mfall in love with astrophotography - 82 - Bode’s Galaxy and the Cigar Galaxy

An exciting aspect of astrophotography is getting more than one deep sky object in the frame. These two Messier objects are the perfect example of hitting two birds with one stone. M81 (Bode’s Galaxy) and M82 (the Cigar Galaxy) are galaxies that are not too far from one another – or rather, they appear so in the right focal length when using a telescope and a camera. Both are classified as galaxies, but they are different. M81 is a spiral galaxy (just like the Milky Way), and the other is a starburst galaxy. With very long exposures from a dark site, very faint interstellar dust known as IFN starts showing up all over the field of view.

M42 – The Orion Nebula (yup, a space object)

fall in love with astrophotography - M42 - The Orion Nebula

One of the most photographed nebulae out there, the Orion Nebula, lives up to its hype. Found near the belt of the well-known Orion constellation, this fuzzy dot to the naked eye reveals more once photographed. Taking a short exposure with your camera – you’ll be amazed at the swirls of color emanating from this iconic nebula. Without a doubt, you’ll get hooked on astrophotography. You may enjoy it so much that you’ll challenge yourself to improve and capture crisper images and bring out the best of the shot you created.

IC 434 – The Horsehead Nebula

fall in love with astrophotography - IC 434 - The Horsehead Nebula

Very close to the Orion Nebula, you’ll find the beautiful IC434!

You heard it right from the horse’s mouth. When you’re ready to get deeper into astrophotography, go right for the Horsehead Nebula! It’s one of the best deep sky objects after the Orion Nebula for beginners who want to try their hand at a nebula. The rich red colors of the Hydrogen Alpha over the dark gases of IC 434 are what make this object gorgeous. The dark cloud in the shape of a horse head peering through the red nebulosity will absolutely take your breath away. This blue version of IC434 (along with M42 on the right) is a unique take on combining the different monochrome channels into a blue-dominant palette.

M45 – The Pleiades: deep sky object with a phone

fall in love with astrophotography - M45 - The Pleiades

It can be intimidating to try to shoot on your own, with gear you’re not familiar with. But did you know that some deep-sky objects could be captured with just your phone? Some stars are bright enough to be captured on phones equipped with long exposure settings. The Pleiades (M45) is one of the targets that can be shot with what you have in your pocket! Who knew? The Seven Sisters, another name for M45, is a cluster of brilliant stars that you can see with your naked eye. This is the easiest star cluster you can photograph, and it also happens to be the most impressive one! It’s the perfect target to start your journey into Astro. Advanced astrophotographers will be able to also reveal the dust all around the cluster, illuminated in blue by the bright stars of the Seven Sisters.

IC 2177 – The Seagull Nebula

fall in love with astrophotography - IC 2177 - The Seagull Nebula

One of the best things about astrophotography is that you can improve quite quickly. You continue to get better every time you photograph the night sky, and with your newfound skills, you can challenge yourself! The Seagull Nebula deep sky object (IC 2177) is a great target for you to try a different color palette than you are used to. Post-processing is where you can really bring out the details of an image and make it unique. Whether you like the true colors (RGB) palette or the Hubble palette (SHO) – or both – you’ll fall in love with every image you process. This image shows the object as the Hubble Palette. In true colors, it would appear almost entirely red.

NGC 2244 – The Rosette Nebula

fall in love with astrophotography - NGC 2244 space object - The Rosette Nebula

For the romantics out there, astrophotography can be so personal. Picking a flower from space to give to someone or collect for yourself is a sentimental experience. You may not be physically plucking it, but in a way, you are capturing the flower’s beauty through a photo you took. The Rosette Nebula is another deep sky object that looks just as beautiful in true colors as it does in the SHO palette. Learning new methods than what you’re used to makes astrophotography a fun hobby that you won’t ever get bored of. With long exposures, you might also be able to capture the fainter parts of the nebula coming off the side, as seen in this image.

M51 – The Whirlpool galaxy

fall in love with astrophotography - M51 space object - The Whirlpool galaxy

Seeing the bright core and spiral arms of a galaxy never ceases to amaze a viewer. Best of all, you can explore deep-sky objects like the Whirlpool Galaxy right from your backyard with the use of a camera. Well, preferably if you live away from light pollution. This is one of the most popular deep sky objects for beginner astrophotographers, due to its unique feature. Indeed, the Whirlpool galaxy shows not one but two galaxies, which collided in the past and are now in the process of merging into one.

M13

fall in love with astrophotography - m13

Many of the space objects in the Messier Catalog are star clusters. Whether they’re open clusters or globular clusters like M13, you’ll be surprised how many stars you can capture together in a frame with a telescope and a camera. A bunch of stars might not sound as exciting as a galaxy or nebula, but you’ll be fascinated by the splashes of yellow and blue stars in a dense cluster. It is so humbling to take photographs of millions of stars, knowing that it took many light years to reach your camera’s sensor. Globular clusters like M13 can have a very bright core, so be sure to keep your exposure time to around 30 seconds or so not to overexpose the object. Now pick up your camera and get started!

About the Author

We are Antoine and Dalia Grelin. For the last ten years, we’ve been honing our skills as amateur astrophotographers. Our goal is to motivate people to jump into this wonderful hobby of astrophotography and help others to capture their first images of the night sky.

We do this through videos on our Galactic Hunter YouTube channel, hundreds of written tutorials on our astrophotography website, and through books about astrophotography. Half of our images are taken from the desert, far away from all the light pollution of the city, and the other half from our backyard in Las Vegas, NV using specialized filters

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