Another galaxy, another Messier object

M33 floating in space

This is M33, the “Triangulum Galaxy”.

Very very roughly, given all the uncertainties about the size of your screen and how close you are, this view is about not too far from naked eye size.

Here’s an image of the moon with the same equipment, same magnification:

The Moon

About the view you would get through binoculars.

The moon is half a degree wide; M33 is a little over one degree, but that includes dim reaches that don’t show in the  photograph above.

I posted a picture of the Andromeda galaxy a few days ago at the same scale.  It is much larger, about three degrees wide.  (Most of the astrographs I post are with the same tiny 61mm telescope and camera, so the scale for all of them is similar. )

The sky goes on forever, and it is littered  with amazing giant things, only slightly hidden from us.

Dumbbell Nebula

AKA M27.  Some pictures may look like a dumbbell, but this one doesn’t.  It looks so small and alone, but it is 1.4 light years in diameter, and nearly 1300 light years away from us.

M27, the Dumbbell Nebula

It doesn’t know about us…


I tried a fairly major software change on my imaging setup, but it was a failure. — I couldn’t make it work.  Even worse, the tracking software  several times ran the telescope into the tripod and ground the gears in the mount in a very frightening way.  So I went back to the previous setup.  Fortunately, the Andromeda Galaxy  is now visible, and I was able to get a nice image, to prove that things were still working.  Everyone has seen this a million times, but it never gets old:

M31, the Andromeda Galaxy

Edit: here’s an improved version of the above image — more exposures, better processing.  Barely noticeable at mobile device scale, but full size you can see the difference…

Improved image of M31

Iris Nebula, plus a strange artifact…

Iris Nebula

The Iris Nebula, NGC 7023

Constructed from about 15 images.  The Iris Nebula appears to be an enormous cloud of dark dust, partially illuminated by the bright star in the center.  A messy, dirty explosion of some kind… The “artifact” is the star in the lower left — I don’t know why it alone is surrounded by a perfectly circular halo.  I think it is T Cephei.

(The Wikipedia article on T Cephei, incidentally, has an absolutely stunning huge image of the region around NGC 7023 — well worth staring at for a while.)

Here’s a second image, with more data and further processing.  The artifact was still there, but I cropped it out to expand the nebula:

Iris Nebula

This image is a stack of 34 frames — several hours total exposure time.   A little robotic telescope mindlessly doing its thing…

Wildfires are raging a couple hundred miles to the Northeast.  That thought keeps intruding.  COVID-19 is sneaking around, touching people, and killing some of them.  I think about that too.  1300 light years away, six light years across.  About half the diameter of the moon…

Nope, it’s the Lagoon Nebula

rosette nebula

This is not the Rosette Nebula, as I first stated.  Instead, it is the Lagoon and Triffid Nebulae — got my wires crossed.  This image is a 300 second single exposure. The color is somewhat arbitrary…

I also took several  1 second shots trying to frame things; for grins I stacked them and you can see the result below.  It’s interesting because to me it looks more like a painting than a photograph.  But 1 second exposures…

The Bubble Nebula (NGC 7635)

NGC 7635 is actually a rather small object, less than a quarter degree across.  My imaging setup has a field of view of 4×2.72 degrees, and the object is a little above the center.  The open cluster in the upper right quadrant is M52.

Below is a closer crop of the above image, showing the perfectly circular “bubble” in the center.

As counterpoint, here’s an exquisite image from the Hubble.

This image is a stack of about 30 10 minute exposures, taken over two nights.

North American Nebula, processed 8 different ways

This is the same data (27 exposures, 3 minutes each) as in the previous post.  Four different ways of combining the exposures, and two different methods of removing background coloration (an overwhelming green from the light pollution filter I was using) from the resulting image.

I think the second one (“integration-ABE1-“) is best, but I was a bit slapdash in preparing the images for posting, so that may be an issue…