The Great Orion Nebula - 15 Years Later...

Date: March 14th 2024

What difference does time, equipment, software, and experience make? Well... Let's find out!

The year was 2009 and it was March, a rather cold March at that. I had just picked up a Canon Rebel XSI(450D) and I had decided to try to take a picture through my Equinox 80ED telescope. This was after years of only looking through my telescopes as I really had no desire previously to try and take pictures. Everything I had read online said that it was a difficult task and I simply enjoyed seeing things with my own eyes. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a go and I knew I needed a nice clear night for this event. At the time I had a Celestron CPC1100 as my main telescope and I mounted my Equinox 80ED on top of it. Well the night came and the forecast was clear, the only downside was that the forecast was calling for -26*C. (-15*F for my neighbours to the South) I decided to go for it anyway, so I packed everything up and went out to my friends place to get out from under the town's lights..

After setting up everything meticulously and going over all the instructions in my head that I could remember I was able to get a series of pictures that I thought might show 'something'. Yes, it did get down to -26*C and it wasn't fun staying outside so my friend and I spent periods of time warming up inside and crossing our fingers that the camera was indeed capturing 'something'. After hours of frozen fingers and frosty eyelashes we dismantled everything, packed up, and I headed for home to get some ZZZzzz's.

Over the next few weeks I ended up doing a crash course on stacking images and processing images in order to figure out what I had captured during that cold dark night. I fumbled my way through Deep sky stacker and Photoshop following some basic online written tutorials (no YouTube vids to help back then) and the result of all this trial and error simply astonished me! I couldn't believe what I was looking at! The color! The detail! All I can remember thinking is WOW! I showed the image to family and friends and they were also quite amazed.

Down the Rabbit Hole...

Needless to say I was hooked. This inevitably led to me to a near endless pursuit of better and better images through research, testing, upgrading, practise, etc, etc over the past 15 years. I believe I have finally reached a point in which I'm happy with what I have and my processes I have developed to get me the best images possible given my sky conditions and current experience level. I've really enjoyed the adventure so far and look to continue it for the next 15+ years.

This winter was the first time I decided to revisit M42, The Great Orion Nebula, as it's never an easy target. Which is something I did not know all those years ago, but being at 55deg latitude means it only gets to around 29deg above the horizon. Being this low in the sky means imaging through a lot of atmosphere which is usually turbulent at this time of year. Due to this I can only manage acquiring 3-4 hours of photons on a good night. Luckily this February I was presented with a series of clear nights and was able to get the job accomplished. I would have liked to get a couple more nights in but it just isn't going to happen unfortunately. All in all, I'm very pleased with the outcome and I think it really shows the difference 15 years can make! I will say in closing though that what I had heard all those years ago remains true to this day... Astrophotography is a difficult task! (But as I've found out, also very rewarding)

Year: 2009

Year: 2024

Acquisition Details:


Telescope: Equinox 80ED
Mount: Celestron CPC1100
Camera: Canon Rebel XSI 450D (Baader Modded)
Filter: None
Software: Photoshop • Deep Sky Stacker
Exposure: 27mins of 60 second exposures


Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130T-R
Mount: Software Bisque Paramount MX
Camera: Player One Poseidon-C Pro
Filter: Optolong L-Quad Enhance, Player One Anti-Halo Dual-Band Ha+OIII 2"
Accessories: 3.5" Feathertouch • Stellarvue SFFX2
Guiding: Starfield 50mm Guide Scope • Player One Neptune 664C • PHD2
Software: Photoshop • PixInsight • TheSkyX • Starkeeper Voyager • GraXpert
Exposure: 12hr 21min 30sec of 300 second exposures


All Images    Craig Sherris