19 Sep 2018. Not THE best, but my best
I’m confident that this is not the best photo of the Andromeda Galaxy ever taken. There’s no question about that. Still, it’s the best photo that I’ve shot of this island of stars, and I’m excited about it. 💡
Why the excitement? I took this photo without the aid of a telescope, using my DSLR camera and an old 75-300mm zoom lens, mounted on a very basic star tracker. The exposure time was only thirty seconds! For many years I expected that being able to take anything other than fuzzy and small photos of this astronomical wonder would require a telescope and many hours of exposure time. Yes, I know that to get decent photos involves those things, but for a 30-second shot that I took through a lens that came off my nephew’s old Canon 35mm film SLR, I think I did pretty well. If you are viewing this photo on your phone, you can swipe leftwards to see an annotated version that includes pointers to some dust lanes in the galactic disc, as well as two companion galaxies of M31. Of course, if you want serious images of this galaxy, you can hit Google and search for “Andromeda galaxy images” to see some incredible visual delights. An added bonus was that I caught a meteor’s death as it burned up in our atmosphere.
Also known as “M31”, sometime around 964 AD, the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi recorded this galaxy as a “nebulous smear”, and star charts of that period labelled it the “Little Cloud.” Until 1925–less than 100 years ago–the Andromeda Galaxy was still thought to be a nebula–a cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionised gases–that resided in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Following extensive observations and measurements by many astronomers, and some defining work by Edwin Hubble, the matter was settled, and M31 was declared to be another galaxy, external to our own, and at a distance of around 2.5 million light-years from Earth.
I used the following equipment and settings to get this photo: Canon EOS 6D Mk II camera; Canon 75-300mm lens zoomed to 300mm, at an aperture of f/5.6. The exposure time was 30 seconds at an ISO of 6400, and I had the “Long Exposure Noise Reduction” feature turned on.