Deep Sky















  Deep Sky

Deep Sky

We have just begun to try photographing deep sky objects.  The web cam gives too small a field of view and doesn't handle dim objects very well so all our pictures were done with the Nikon Coolpix 4500 using afocal photography (eyepiece connected to the camera) through the Tele Vue 85 unless noted otherwise.

There are an incredible variety of objects up in the night sky.  Most people never get a chance to see anything but the stars, the moon, and the Milky Way.  We have tried to capture some of the easy to photograph objects.

Using the Nikon for deep sky objects hasn't been too successful.  First, focusing is very difficult because the objects are too dim to show on the camera's LCD screen.  Theoretically, we should be able to focus using a parafocal eyepiece and then insert the camera (focused on infinity).  Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work all the time with the Nikon.  Seems to work just fine during the day, but it is not reliable at night.  Also, several of the pictures show the need for a field flattener, or show blurry or elongated stars at the edges.  Can a digital SLR or CCD camera be in our future?  The trouble with afocal photography is that there are too many pieces of glass between the object and the camera sensor.

Well, the Canon 20Da wasn't that far in the future after all. What fun! It is still difficult to focus but the camera is very consistent, focuses well on brighter stars, and takes beautiful images. The field flattener is definitely needed to avoid elongated stars at the edges of the pictures. The picture of M8 and M20 really shows the camera's capabilities.

Click any picture for a larger view or click here to browse through the pictures.


IC 410 - Tadpole Nebula

This is an example of a large area of gases being illuminated by nearby stars. The tadpoles can be seen in the lower left portion of the nebula. Yes, it takes a bit of imagination.

Helix Nebula

The Helix Nebula was formed by a star, about the size of our sun, reaching the end of its life. Toward the end of a star's life, the star expands and throws off its outer layers. In the Helix Nebula you see the star's outer layer which is expanding away from the star and reflecting the star's light.

NGC 6960 - Veil Nebula

Also called the "Witches Broom Nebula" formed when a star went Supernova. What we see here is the Western portion of the nebula. The complete nebula is so large that I can't see the entire nebula through my telescope. Look at the wispy reds and blues.

M33 - Triangulum Galaxy

Part of the "Local Group" of galaxies (which includes the Milky Way and Andromeda among others) and appears larger than the full moon in a telescope.


The Pleiades (or Seven Sisters) is an open cluster in Taurus. The blue appearance of all the stars is not an accident. These stars are young (maybe 100 million years old) and very hot. From a really dark spot you can see 7 stars in the cluster but most locations have enough light pollution that you will only see 6 or fewer stars.

Orion and Running Man Nebula

I just can't help it, each year I feel the need to take a picture of the Orion Nebula. It is so beautiful with rich color, wavy gasses, and wispy blue/grey areas.

NGC 6995 - Veil East

This is the eastern portion of the Veil Nebula. The picture doesn't really do justice to the nebula, there is quite a bit more detail in the upper left that would come out with longer exposures.

M84 - M86

This picture is full of Galaxies. M84 is the round, bright galaxy at the bottom center of the picture. M86 is the bright, slightly elongated galaxy just above the center. There are 6 more galaxies that are fairly easy to see and several fainter galaxies hiding amongst the stars.


One of the oldest star groupings in the Milky Way, M5 is a globular cluster in the constellation of Serpens.


One of my favorite visual targets, M13 lies in Hercules. A globular cluster, you can see an unrelated galaxy in the lower left portion of the picture.


A Globular Cluster in Ophiuchus not too far from M10 (which looks very similar). It differs from M10 in that the center has a much lower concentration of stars.


Also called the "Wild Duck Cluster" it comprises a loose collection of stars bound gravitationally. M11 is an "Open Cluster" (similar to a "Globular Cluster" but with fewer stars) of about 2900 stars.


M10 is a globular cluster in the constellation of Ophiuchus. You can see this easily with binoculars or a small telescope. The center has so many stars you can only see a blur of light.

M65 M66 - Leo Triplet

The Leo Triplet is a group of 3 galaxies. Messier 65 (M65) is the upper right, M66 is just below and to the right, and NGC 3628 is on the left.

Bubble Nebula

NGC 7635 (the Bubble Nebula) is found along the border of the constellation Cassiopeia. The bubble is formed by a hot bright star blowing away interstellar gas.

NGC 6888 - Crescent Nebula

The Crescent Nebula (located in the constellation of Cygnus) is formed by a dying star expelling material into space and causing an expanding shell. The central star will become a Supernova sometime in the future.

Comet Holmes

Suddenly, on October 24th, Comet Holmes brightened by a factor of about a million. Over time, the coma (the thin gaseous area around the comet) became larger than our sun. Although the comet is mostly round, you can see a sharper edge on the left and a bit of elongation from lower left toward the upper right.

Comet Holms

As the days go by, the comet gets larger and slightly more elongated. Tonight, the comet was a naked eye object.

IC 5146 - Cocoon

The Cocoon nebula lies in the constellation of Cygnus. A small object that really needs a long focal length scope to capture correctly. You can see a small amount of nebulosity around a bright star half way toward the bottom and a bit left of center.

M20 - Trifid Nebula

The Trifid Nebula is one of the wonders of the summer skies. Located near Sagittarius, the Trifid nebula is interesting because it shows both blue and red in color photographs. The name derives from the dust lanes that divide the nebula.

Comet Swan

The comet passed by earth in 2006 and had an unexpected brightening in late October and early November. The SOHO spacecraft recorded images of the comet as early as June 2006 on the SWAN camera. It brightened on October 23 and 24 so that you could see it with your naked eye if you lived in a dark sky area. We needed binoculars.

North American and Pelican Nebula Widefield

You can see this area if you look straight up around 10p.m. in mid August. The bright star on the right is Deneb. How many stars do you think are visible in this picture. I haven't counted them but ...

North American and Pelican Nebula

North American and Pelican Nebula. These regions are at the top of the constellation Cygnus. This picture shows both of the nebulas with the Pelican nebula on the right and the North American nebula at the center.

Milky Way Widefield

This picture shows the center of our galaxy (the Milky Way) and the surrounding area. Dark areas are caused by dust blocking the light from the galactic center. You can see the "teapot" near the bottom of this picture. Several Messier objects (M7 and M6 for example) are easy to spot.

M8 - M20 Widefield

This is a picture of the Milky Way looking above the constellation Sagittarius. We are looking more or less toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy and you can see several Nebulas and at least 3 star clusters (bottom right, upper right, and top center). Dark areas are dusty lanes that block light from the center of our galaxy.

Lagoon Nebula

The Lagoon Nebula (also know as M8) was discovered by Le Gentil in 1747. You can see this with your naked eye if you look over the "Spout" of the "Teapot" in the southern summer skies. This is a star forming area of the Milky Way which lies about 5000 light years in the direction of the center of our galaxy.

Eagle Nebula

The Eagle Nebula is also known as M16 for Charles Messier who catalogued it in 1764, it was discovered by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1745. This is a star forming region in the Milky Way that is perhaps only 2 Million years old. It is about 7000 light years from us in another arm of the Milky Way.

Omega Nebula

Also called the Swan or the Horseshoe nebula, the Omega nebula is Messier object 17 (M17). People think that this nebula is illuminated by stars forming inside gaseous areas and the gasses hide the young stars forming inside. Thought to be 5000 to 6000 light years from Earth, the nebula is part of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Dumbbell Nebula

The Dumbbell Nebula is about 1200 light years away and is thought to represent the state that our own sun will achieve near the end of its lifespan. When a sun dies, it sheds its outer layers in an expanding cloud of gas (called a planetary nebula). The gas is illuminated by the central star.

Whirlpool Galaxy

Charles Messier is credited with discovering this galaxy in October 1773. You can find it in a telescope by looking a bit below the last star in the handle of the big dipper. Actually, two galaxies are shown and it is thought that the spiral structure of the large galaxy results from the interaction of the two galaxies. The pair is roughly 30 million light years away.

Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

We were lucky to have another comet appear in the sky this year. It was visible without a telescope (naked eye or binoculars) for a short period this spring. The comet broke into pieces as it went around the sun and this is the larger of the pieces.

Orion Nebula

The Running Man Nebula is on the left and the Orion Nebula is on the right. You can see this area with your naked eye if you look at the 2nd star in Orion's sword.

Horse Head and Flame Nebulas

The Horsehead nebula is an area of dust that is obscuring the light behind it. The bright star near the left center of the picture is the bottom star of Orion's Belt.

Double Cluster

The double cluster, in Perseus, is visible to the naked eye as a couple of blurry areas in line with Cassiopeia. These clusters of stars are about 7000 light years away but are still part of the Milky Way.


You can see a bit of nebulosity around the stars. We can count 6 stars with our naked eye, seven stars when we are in the Adirondacks at a dark sky site, but the camera sees much more than the human eye.


Andromeda Galaxy and Satellite galaxies. Taken in October 2005 with the new Canon 20Da camera from a dark site in the Adirondacks. Andromeda is our closest large neighboring galaxy. It is about 3 million light years away and heading toward the milky way. Someday there may be a collision but it will be billions of years in the future.

M33, Pinwheel Galaxy

Also taken in October 2005 from the Adirondacks using the Canon 20Da. This is a beautiful galaxy and shows spiral arms like we would see in the Milky Way if we could get the right view.

North American Nebula

This nebula is at the top of the constellation Cygnus. Look closely and you can see the gulf of Mexico in the center of the image and the United States on the left side. Taken in October 2005 with the Canon 20Da.


Called the "Seven Sisters" the Pleiades is easy to see naked eye in the autumn and winter sky.

Veil Nebula

Also in the constellation Cygnus, the Veil nebula is the remnant of a supernova explosion. This is the Eastern part of the expanding gases from the explosion. Taken with a Canon 20Da attached to the Tele Vue 85 refractor in October 2005.

M8 and M20

Two nebulas in the Sagitarius (Teapot) area. These nebulas are in the general direction of the center of the Milky Way. Taken with a Canon 20Da at prime focus of the Tele Vue 85 refractor. No dark frames, flat frames, or noise reduction. Stack of 5 shots from our light poluted driveway.


Taken from Moffitt Beach in the Adirondacks. Some 8 or 9 images stacked in Images Plus. Various exposures from 30 seconds to 2 minutes with the Nikon Coolpix 4500 unguided. Vignetting in lower left caused by afocal camera connection.

Comet Neat

Not really a deep sky object, but here is an unguided picture taken with the Nikon Coolpix 4500 afocally connected to the TV85 using a 32mm eyepiece


Another shot with the Nikon Coolpix 4500, afocal, 32mm eyepiece, stack of five 2 minute exposures. Pictures taken at Moffitt beach in the Adirondacks.

Orion - Trapezium

Nikon Coolpix 4500 afocaly connected to 16" Meade LX200 with an 18mm eyepiece. Single 30 second shot.

Orion Nebula

Here's a longer shot of the Orion Nebula. This was about 1 minute and processed in Images Plus to enhance contrast and bring out some of the nebula detail.

Orion - TV85

This is a stack of 4 shots through the TV 85 unguided using the Nikon Coolpix 4500. Individual frames varied in exposure from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It was -18 F outside when Chuck took this picture.