M31 – The Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy is arguably one of the most spectacular objects in the night sky. In typical city lights, it’s completely invisible even though its apparent size is roughly 6 times as wide as the moon. In dark skies, you can see it with your naked eye as a smudge about as big as the tip of your thumb. Even with a telescope, your eye can’t make out the gorgeous detail of the galaxy next door.

Thankfully with the help of cooled astronomy cameras and dark skies, we can see how gorgeous Andromeda is. It was a while ago, but I shot the data for this Andromeda Galaxy shot in one night using a monochrome camera. Normally, I’d shoot images with luminance, red, green and blue filters (or sometimes other narrow band filters instead of RGB). However for this shot, I just captured luminance data. Sooo…black & white only.

I used a Takahashi FSQ-106 at iTelescope from New Mexico Skies. It’s wide field enough to get most of M31 in one frame. After capturing a few hours of data, I combined the images in Nebulosity and processed it in Photoshop. The blue tint is false color applied in Photoshop.

For those of you considering getting a monochrome astronomy camera, I think you can make great images even before you get a filter wheel. Targets like galaxies and star clusters can even look fairly realistic with just a splash of false color added in processing.

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