Monday, February 1, 2021

In search of the Rose (not radio related)

A clear night has come to mean "charge the camera batteries and find a nighttime target".

With batteries charged and hot coffee in the Thermos, the target was the Rosette Nebula, a few degrees east of Betelgeuse. The result represents my latest attempt at capturing ancient light, which, in this case,  left the nebula 52 centuries ago, only to slam into my camera's sensor this very evening.

Luckily, both sensor & tripod were sturdy and withstood the hour-long bombardment in fine style.

But things did not go as planned.

The skies were awesome with an easily visible Milky Way. But, try as I might, I could not see the Rosette Nebula. I tried pointing the camera in its vicinity, snapping a frame to see if I was on it to no avail. Rinse and repeat...couldn't find it.

With only 3 hours before moonrise I decided to cut my losses, forget the Rosette for the night and just aim towards the Horsehead Nebula as my goal for now. That was easy - both the Horsehead and the Flame Nebula are within the same field of view as Alnitak, Orion's left-most belt star.

Turn on the tracker, program the intervalometer and collect a bunch of photons. I threw a few photos out due to airplane/satellite QRM but ended up with about an hour of stack-worthy RAW files.

As I was sitting around during that hour, my eyes became more dark adapted and I could just baaaaarley begin to see a faint smudge that I knew was the Rosette Nebula.

So I declared the Horsehead Nebula "Done" and swung the works to the left. Made a few test shots to confirm framing and then began a series of 60-second exposures of my original goal for the evening. After 15 minutes, the moon peaked above the eastern horizon and the images - along with the sky - went from black to medium gray.

The was no point in continuing so I packed up and headed home. One Rosette file deleted (airplane trail) leaves 14 minutes of exposure time.

I'll be back when I can devote more time to this space oddity but I gotta say: I'm happy with what 14 minutes will do to bring this beauty out of the night sky.

Nikon Z6, 300/f4, ISO 2000, 14 minutes




  1. Very nice. The cold (9F) weather here in SE Michigan has kept me out of the backyard (that and a few inches of snow). Clear nights here are really cold. We have one coming up this evening and next day, so of course the temps are due to drop into the low teens again. Guess I'm just too old to stand out in that kind of weather.

    1. I don't know how guys in your part of the country play at astronomy. I think I'd look at it as theory time rather than practical - YouTube tutorials,, etc. Like you, I sure wouldn't be out in 9F, at a stationary any age.