I usually image from suburban areas with a fair amount of light pollution, roughly Bortle 7 class skies. I recently had the chance to do some imaging from Bortle 4 class skies, and I was excited to take advantage of it!
Unfortunately, I only had one clear, moonless night, and my view was fairly obstructed in some directions. With these limitations, I wanted to get the most I could out of this opportunity, so I decided to image a few different targets.
I first set my sights on Markarian’s Chain. This is a target I’ve done before, but I wasn’t fully satisfied with my previous results. Light pollution and the limited optics of my kit lens were limiting factors of my previous attempts. So, with my prime f/2.8 lens and darker skies, I decided to spend some of my precious time that night on this target again. I am very glad I did!
I got about 30 minutes of integrated exposure of Markarian’s Chain. Normally I’d like to get a lot more, but with a fast lens and far from light pollution, I was able to get away with it. I was blown away with the single subs I was seeing, and the final result did not disappoint!
There’s still some visible noise, and some chromatic aberration, particularly in the top left (not quite perfect focus? tilt issues?). But overall, I think this is a massive improvement over my previous attempt, which had 6 hours of integrated exposure. Lots of finer details are visible!
I would have kept going on this target, but it quickly became obscured behind a large tree, no matter how much I tried to adjust my positioning. So, I decided to switch to a different galaxy target, M51. I was actually fairly happy with my previous M51 result, but it was my last image with my kit lens so I thought I could do better.
This time, I only had 19.5 minutes of integrated exposure. That sounds insanely low to me, but even in a single sub I was seeing lots of fine details. In less than 20 minutes, I was able to generate a picture that I think is better than my old result that took 4.5 hours of exposure.
I spent most of my time under clear dark skies on a different target, but that’s for a future post!