Last year was my first astrophotography ‘season’, a time of year when the nights are longer, air cooler and the galactic cloud makes way to a sea of galaxies!
Last year I didn’t make a target list, primarily because I had no idea what I was doing so spent most of the winter screwing things up and getting annoyed at cloud. This year I have a bit more idea about what I want to image, with what scope, which camera and when; which leaves me a bit prepared for when the clouds move along. I never used to prioritise planning photos, which often left me rushing outside and slewing my telescope around and around, taking short exposures of many different objects. Although that was mainly the result of naivety and excitement about my new hobby, it ultimately left me with very little to show for, particularly on this site! I imaged a number of DSOs, from M31, M27, M42, M81, M13, M17, M51 and more, but eventually binned every single one of them.
This year I’m pretty confident with my gear and am happy to spend a few hours or nights on one target. Needless to say, I’ve still made a huge list of what I want to go for this winter, and while It’s likely we’ll only have around 10 clear nights over the next 6 months here in the UK, I’ll come back to this list year after year to improve.
These are all popular Northern hemisphere targets which match well to my equipment and location. If you see something you think should be in there, let me know! I’m still looking for good narrowband options, but many of the good ones are too low for me in winter.
M31 ‘Andromeda Galaxy’ (September-December)
M45 ‘Pleiades cluster’ / ‘Seven sisters’ (December-April)
M81 ‘Bodes Galaxy’ (November-March)
M42 ‘Orion Nebula’ (November-April)
M74 / NGC 628 (Octboer-December)
NGC 7635 ‘Bubble Nebula’ (September-Janruary)
NGC 2024 ‘Flame Nebula’ (+Horse head) (November-April)
Lep Triplet / M66 Group / M65, M66, & NGC 3628 (January-May)
M51 ‘Whirlpool Galaxy’ (March-July)
Markarian’s Chain / M84 (NGC 4374), M86 (NGC 4406), NGC 4477, NGC 4473, NGC 4461, NGC 4458, NGC 4438 and NGC 4435. (February-May)
M101 ‘Pinwheel Galaxy’ (February-June)
NGC 4565 ‘Needle Galaxy’ (February-June)
IC 1396 Elephant Trunk Nebula’ (October-December) – n/b
IC 1805 ‘Heart Nebula’ (September-March) – n/b
Virgo Cluster (February-April)
M63 ‘Sunflower Galaxy’ (January-April)
(Post thumbnail via APOD)