I got into astrophotography soon after I got my Celestron C-11 during the Halley's Comet craze in 1985. The results were fair to disappointing. I had to use film, since CCDs hadn't been invented yet, and I had to use real fast film to keep the exposure times reasonable. So, the pictures were grainy, and since digital darkrooms didn't exist yet, there wasn't much I could do to improve the image.
Well, times have changed! Enter the digital age, using DSLRs and astronomical image processing. And, the results have been amazing. Below are of few of my favorite images taken during the past year. I use a Celestron C-11 telescope, a Lumicon Giant Easy-Guider, a Sony A-55 DSLR (astro-modified, red cutoff filter removed), and Startools for most of my image processing. Click on the thumbnails for higher resolution photos.
My setup. C-11, Giant Easy-Guider, A-55, and assorted cheap electronics.
The Crab Nebula, M1, a supernova remnant in Taurus.
M22, an awesome, easy to resolve globular star cluster in Sagittarius.
The Dumbbell Nebula, M27, a planetary nebula in Vulpecula.
The Whirlpool Galaxy, M51, a magnificent spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici.
The Ring Nebula, M57, a planetary nebula in Lyra. "A wreath placed by nature around a dying star."
The Horsehead Nebula, located just below the leftmost star of Orion's belt (Zeta). An extremely difficult object to see visually. Imaged 2/9/16, a 55 minute exposure at ISO 3200 from my Elgin observing site.
M46, an open star cluster in Puppis. Unique because of the "ring" planetary nebula around a foreground star. A 5 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from my Elgin observing site.
NGC 4665, a magnificent edge-on spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices. Measuring 15 x 2 arcminutes, the nuclear bulge and obscuring dust lane can be seen visually. A 15 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from McDonald Observatory.
M64, the "Black Eye" galaxy, in Coma Berenices. This galaxy is unique because of the obscuring lane of dust and gas in front of the nucleus. This "black eye" can be seen visually with moderate amateur telescopes. It was easy to see in the 11 inch. A 10 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from McDonald Observatory.
M66 (left) and M65 (right). A pair of bright (10th magniture) galaxies in the same low power field. The two galaxies are about 30 arcminutes apart, located in Leo. A 9 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from McDonald Observatory.
M8, the Lagoon Nebula, a star formation region in Sagittarius. Visible with binoculars under a dark sky, even a small telescope reveals the dark lane and the star cluster. A 2.5 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from McDonald Observatory.
M20, the Trifid Nebula, located just above the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius. Faintly visible with binoculars, the 3 dark lanes in the emission (red) nebula are visible through a small telescope. The reflection nebula (blue) is much harder to see.
NGC7000, the North American Nebula, located in a dense star field in Cygnus. Vaguely visible to the naked eye under observatory sky conditions, the large object appears as a glowing patch in the Milky Way. A 25 minute exposure through a 200mm lens from McDonald Observatory.
M42. the Orion Nebula, visible with the naked eye as the center "star" of Orion's sword. Almost certainly the most photographed deep sky object, though the high dynamic range between the bright inner regions and the faint outer regions can make it difficult. For this image, I layered a 2 second exposure of the inner nebula, clearly showing the trapezium, against a 40 second exposure showing the outermost wisps of nebulosity. Imaged 2/9/16 from my Elgin observing site at ISO 400.
M78, a reflection nebula on the north side of Orion's belt. Part of the Orion Molecular Cloud, a star formation region that includes the Orion Nebula, the Horsehead, the Flame, NGC 2023, Barnard's Loop and other clouds of hydrogen in Orion. Not an impressive visual object, though it does sort of look like a comet. The blue (reflection) part is easily visible. The fainter nebulosity curving around from the left to the upper right is much tougher to see. A 32 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from McDonald Observatory.
M76, the "Little Dumbell", glows faintly at 12th magnitude in Perseus. Though it is the faintest of the Messier objects, its small size results in a high surface brightness, so the object is not as hard to see as its magnitude indicates. A 10 minute exposure at ISO 1600, imaged 12/1/15 from McDonald Observatory
One of my best results, the beautiful spiral galaxy M81 in Ursa Major.Numerous HII regions (bright knots) are visible in the spiral arms, and dark dust lanes are visible near the nucleus. A 20 minute exposure at ISO 1600 from McDonald Observatory.