Andromeda Galaxy Revisited – 31st October 2015

Something strange happened at the weekend… there was a clear night in the UK. So, in the dark, I set about getting the telescope and cameras out to have a go at something… anything really. I haven’t been out since 3rd October when nothing worthwhile resulted. Just because it ahead of the still large and bright moon, I plumped for the Andromeda Galaxy. As a reminder, Andromeda (M31) is our closest galaxy at 2.5m light years and is visible with the naked eye on dark clear nights… and if you know where to look!

I wanted to see if I could improve on the effort I posted last year.

An early attempt at Andromeda that suffers from the limitations of unguided subs on an EQ3-2 mount. There is some detail coming through in the dust lanes and some colour, but longer subs are going to be needed to improve on this.

While the galaxy is visible it still lacks detail and the stars suffer with pushing the colour a little too far in post-processing. This was also in the days before a field flattener on the scope that would prevent the visible “stretching” of the stars in the corners of the image. The image was also taken on my older mount and without guiding assistance, so the mount was limited to 90 second images.

With my newer set-up I pushed the single images up to 210 seconds, so just over double what I managed before and also guided the scope while it was tracking to improve the quality of the image. There is still a long way to go. As I get sorted with the skills of guiding the imaging scope I will be able to up the image length and, if the timing is right, and the moon is out of the way, it could work on over 5 minute subs and even longer.

Processing, to be honest, is the hard part, and I am still learning how to use Photoshop to my best advantage. There is rather a lot to learn!

Anyway, here is the first effort, which is a result of 2 minutes short of 3 hours of imaging, so at least 3 times the amount of data I had for the picture above.

M31 - Andromeda 31st October#1

Clearly there is a lot more data and detail in the image, so I am happy with how that turned out. But the core is blown out, so I thought I would have another go at processing the image and came up with something that is a little softer.

M31 - Andromeda 31st October 2015#2

I think I prefer the second version, but then it is fairly subjective how the images are processed and the can be tweaked ad infinitum if you are not careful. It is often the case that you have to get to a point that you are happy and then leave it. The core is still a little “blown” but I will need to incorporate two sets of images taken at different exposure lengths to counter that… one step at a time!

The images still have a fair bit of background noise, and I will need to work on reducing that in future images, but I am very happy with the improvement over the course of the year.

Hope you like them!

The only way is up!

As ever the images have also been uploaded to the gallery!


Posted on November 4, 2015, in Astronomy, Astrophotography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Looks awesome, Mark.
    I actually favour the first composite, I think because it gives me a greater sense of depth, both very cool. Is Andromeda Galaxy the one that when you look in the sky it looks like a wee smudge?


    • Thanks Arlene – to be honest I am flipping between them on a daily basis! I need to get a good pc screen and calibrate it properly for this sort of thing as they do look different every time I look at them on a different monitor!

      And yes, that’s the one! I think the technical term is “faint fuzzies” – very visible through some decent binoculars though… much harder with the naked eye unless you are in a nice dark location.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome pix. One day it will be a lot easier to photograph, as it’s approaching our galaxy at a rate and will collide with us in a few billion years…


  3. Great, keep up the good work let see some more. Molly not want to help?

    Liked by 1 person

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