How I Took a Photo of the Andromeda Galaxy from My Backyard

by | May 16, 2022 | PetaPixel

Image: Brennan Gilmore

Cross-posted from petapixel.com [by Brennan Gilmore]

I recently shot a photograph of the Andromeda Galaxy that went viral, appearing everywhere from the front page of Reddit to Newsweek. The photo was taken with a four-inch telescope over the course of multiple nights from my backyard near Charlottesville, Virginia, US.

In this article, I will share how the image came together and offer some tips for shooting one of the most photographed deep sky objects.

Indeed, Andromeda was one of the first targets I attempted when I began my astrophotography journey in earnest two years ago. As a beginner then, my results were satisfactory to my beginner’s eye, but are a far cry from what I have been able to capture recently. This came from both refining my techniques and adjusting my equipment to be more specialized to reach my astrophotography goals.

So what have I learned in the last two years since the initial attempts to shoot Andromeda? Here are a few lessons, in no particular order:

Time of Year is Critical

September through December are the best months to shoot Andromeda from mid-northern latitudes. While it’s present in the sky much of the year, shooting targets above 30° is imperative to mitigate atmospheric distortion, improve tracking and get clean results. In October, Andromeda spends the night in these higher altitudes.

Location, Location, Location

While many narrowband nebula targets can be shot beautifully in the middle of the city, for galaxies it’s best to seek out a dark sky location – at least Bortle 4. I’m lucky to have a Bortle 3 backyard where I shoot most deep-sky targets.

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