Andromeda Galaxy – M31

I’m still testing out the new-to-me Nikon 180mm f/2.8 ED AI-S manual focus lens. Weather has been the limiting factor but I did get a chance to shoot for a few nights.

Andromeda Galaxy (M31).
Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

Satellite imagery suggested that I might get about an hour of clear skies a few nights ago so I found myself at Sunset Crater National Monument—a Dark Sky National Park. The clouds moved in a bit faster than expected so I only got a few exposures before thin clouds moved across my target in the sky —Andromeda Galaxy (M31). The thin clouds resulted in slightly enhanced color in the vicinity of the brighter stars. Art vs. accuracy. Hmmm… In this case, I like the art version.

Andromeda Galaxy (M31).
Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

The previous night I had also attempted this shot but the lens would not maintain sharp focus. It turns out that when pointed up at an extreme angle the focus ring slips. I remembered reading about this and a quick search online brought me to this article on the Cloudy Nights website.

It turns out there is a cheap solution (free) and an elegant ($$$) solution. I tried the cheap version and it works but I’m intrigued by the other solution as well.

Above is another version of M31 taken about 10 days earlier when the object was lower in the sky and the lens did not have slippage issues. This is a single 2-minute exposure that has been histogram stretched using rnc-color-stretch.

Finally, I tried shooting the Orion Nebula (M42) recently but the shot was “photo-bombed” by the SpaceX Starlink cluster.

Spacex Starlink cluster.
Spacex Starlink cluster.

This is going to be happening more as SpaceX and other companies launch tens of thousands of these small satellites into Low Earth Orbit over the next few years.