Pleiades, Aldebaran, Cassiopeia and Orion’s Nebula: Photographing the Night Sky without a Telescope

Last summer (the one in 2021) I decided to take up night sky photography during the coming winter (the one we are currently going through).

I only ever photographed the astronomical objects for study/research purpose and never just for fun. Even though observing the sky at 5100m heights in the Atacama desert in Chile is definitely something I thought was fun. But this time I wanted to explore the stars on the night sky without any particular purpose other than having fun and getting to know my camera. It has taken a few months to get a hang of it, but now I had a few photos to share along with the technical specs and details. All photos are taken with a Nikon D7100.

Pleiades

The first photo is of the Pleiades or M45.

Pleiades
Pleiades / M45.

The Pleiades are also sometimes called The Seven Sisters, because there are seven bright stars clearly visible to the naked eye. It was first observed through a telescope in 1610 by Galileo Galilei (the guy who invented the telescope). He saw that it consisted of not only seven stars, but in fact many more. He drew the stars and their location relative to each other for future studies. I guess our cameras today are just a more accurate version of that approach.

Details: 70mm lens, 13 second exposure, ISO 100 and f/5.0.

Cassiopeia

This photo shows a part of Cassiopeia. The reason is quite simple: Had I been able to photography portrait (i.e. on the “long side”) instead of landscape (the”broad side”) I could have had the entire constellation in the frame. But because I could not get the camera to avoid drifting in the upright position, I decided to just shoot landscape and pretend the orientation was on purpose.

Cassiopeia (zoomed in).

Cassiopeia was in the Greek mythology the mother of Andromeda. You can actually see the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye (not in this photo, though, because of the very unintentional orientation) next to Cassiopeia. That’s our closets neighbor spiral galaxy.

Cassiopeia was described as arrogant and vain, but then again aren’t we all.

Details: 70mm lens, 13 second exposure, ISO 640 and f/5.0.

Aldebaran

This is the star Aldebaran. It’s located 65 light years away from us and you can see it in the Taurus constellation, which looks like the letter V tilted sideways. You will see it next to Orion’s shoulder, towards your right.

Aldebaran
Aldebaran in Taurus constellation.

Aldebaran is about the same size as the Sun in terms of mass, but its radius is almost 50 times bigger. It’s called a red giant and found on the red giant branch in the HR-diagram.

Details: 70mm lens, 13 second exposure, ISO 640 and f/5.0.

Orion’s Nebula

A bit below the classic 3-star line that makes up Orion’s Belt, you will find his sword. One of the stars looks a bit smudged – that’s because it’s not a star. It is a huge collection of gas and dust, and such a collection is called a nebula. It is in regions like this that stars are born, after spending millions of years hidden away and protected in cocoons of gas and dust.

Orion's Nebula
Orion’s Nebula

This photo has a bit more motion than the others. It’s mainly because of my setup that was quite sensitive to the harsh wind, but also because of the slightly longer lens. I took several photos and this was the nicest. I’ll give it another shot later this winter, preferably with a much longer lens.

Details: 90mm lens, 13 second exposure, ISO 640 and f/5.0.


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