The Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

The Andromeda Galaxy
At a mere 2.5 million light years away from Earth, the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest neighbor galaxy to our home Milky Way galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is also known as M31 for its place in the Messier catalog of deep space objects, and NGC 224 in the New General Catalogue of deep space objects. We are actually on a collision course with Andromeda, the two galaxies are expected to collide in about 4.5 billion years and form one giant galaxy.

Nikon D810A and NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4 lens using an equatorial mount (star tracker). The equatorial mount rotates the camera with the speed of the earth so that it can take long exposures without the stars appearing to move. I was using a small mount on loan from Slik that is designed for smaller cameras and lenses so I was really pushing it with the weight of my full-frame D810A and 70-200mm f/4 lens. That combined with the wind on the night I shot this meant I could only do about 12 seconds per exposure before the stars would start to trail (blur).

This final image is the result of star stacking 62 exposures that were shot at 200mm, f/5.6, ISO 6400, 12 seconds. I stopped down the lens to sharpen up the stars a bit. I stacked the exposures using Starry Sky Stacker, a brand new deep space star stacking program for the Mac from Ralph Hill, the same developer as Starry Landscape Stacker, available on the App Store, but you can do this with a ton of other star stacking programs such as DeepSkyStackerfor Windows, or Photoshop itself. With the limited shutter speed I had pretty dark images, but even so I was able to pull out a lot of detail from the stacked image using a lot of curves adjustments in Photoshop, one of many ways that you can stretch the contrast of a deep space image to bring out the faint details. I also used the GradientXTerminator plug-in get rid of the brightness and color gradients in the background of the image, and I used the amazing Astronomy Tools action set for Photoshop for noise reduction and creative effects to bring out color and detail.
This entry was posted in astrophotography, D810A, Nikon, Nikon D810A.

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