Fresh air, blossoming trees, and nearly perfect weather. Welcome to April! Whether you have just dusted off your astrophotography rig or are searching for more targets this spring - we've got you covered. In this post, we've compiled 5 April astrophotography targets to keep you going. See what they are below and check out the other lists of our special monthly series at the end.
We put together 5 deep-sky objects that are at their highest elevation in April. If you expected to see a particular object and don't see it here, not to worry - it's likely in another post. See all monthly lists on our tutorials page.
Of the targets below, the first three are considered beginner level and the last two are more advanced. We wanted to make this list enjoyable to everyone no matter their skill level.
Watch our video guide on YouTube for a bit of fun!
Need more spring targets? Read our 15 best spring astrophotography targets!
5 April astrophotography targets:
M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy
M51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy
NGC 4631 - The Whale Galaxy
NGC 4565 - The Needle Galaxy
Much smaller than our Milky Way galaxy but much, much brighter is M104, also known as the Sombrero Galaxy due to its shape.
This object is fairly easy to capture for beginner astrophotographers. It is very small so it is of course best captured with a medium to large telescope, but it does not require long acquisition times to look beautiful. The image below was taken with a stock DSLR camera and 8" reflector telescope with only 3 hours of total integration time.
M104 can be found 30 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Watch Episode 6 of Galactic Hunter to see how we captured this object!
Messier 51, of the Whirlpool Galaxy, is one of the most popular beginner objects to photograph. It has a fairly large size, it is bright, and most importantly, it is very impressive! M51 is actually two galaxies interacting with each other. You can see the large one (in blue below) absorbing the smaller one. A great feature of this target is that a lot of faint gas can be seen escaping the objects as a result of their collision. Some of it can be seen below.
This is another bright object that doesn't require you to spend many hours on it to be good, well assuming you image from a relatively dark site. The image below is a total of 2 hours with a stock Canon T3i DSLR camera, from a Bortle 4 zone.
Markarian's Chain is... a chain of 8+ galaxies in the constellation Virgo discovered by Armenian astrophysicist Benjamin Markarian.
The chain is part of the Virgo Supercluster of galaxies, which contains dozens and dozens of galaxies! Most of them are spirals and ellipticals, and there does not seem to be any nebula in the vicinity, at least not visible with amateur equipment.
In the image below you can see three Messier objects. M84 and M86 are both part of Markarian's Chain while M87 is the bright round blob visible on the bottom left of the frame.
The Whale Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy that is seen edge-on. It is full of details, but those are difficult to enhance because of how thin the galaxy appears from our point of view. One side of NGC 4631 is "thicker" than the other, which is why it got the name Whale Galaxy!
There are several other galaxies around which are easily captured in the same frame with any instrument. The most popular ones are NGC 4656 and NGC 4657 which form the Hockey Stick galaxies and look like... a hockey stick!
NGC 4631 by NASA
In the constellation Coma Berenices is another very thin, edge-on galaxy: the Needle Galaxy. You might be able to guess why it got its name!
This one is a little similar to the Whale galaxy, as it is full of details but we only see a thin portion of the object. Processing it can be a little tricky as well as the core is noticeably brighter than the rest. It is actually more luminous than the famous Andromeda Galaxy!
Just like NGC 4631, the Needle Galaxy also has several smaller galaxies visible near it.
NGC 4565 by NASA
Those were our suggestions for April astrophotography targets and we hope they inspired you! If you want a challenge, bookmark this page to reference and check off the deep-sky objects you have captured. If you are done with April, take a look at May and other months and see if you can get those early!
Don't worry if you quickly ran through the list. We also have top picks for the 15 best spring astrophotography targets. There, you'll have 15 to knock out and, you can even take a look at next season's targets by checking out our seasonal lists.
GALACTIC HUNTER BOOKS
Description: Discover 60 Deep Sky Objects that will considerably improve your Imaging and Processing skills! Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced astrophotographer, this detailed book of the best deep-sky objects will serve as a personal guide for years to come! Discover which star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies are the easiest and most impressive to photograph for each season. Learn how to find each object in the night sky, and read our recommendations on imaging them in a quick and comprehensive way. Each target in this guide contains our advice on imaging, photos of expected results, and a useful information table. We've also included a few cool facts about each target, a map to find it in the night sky, and more!
Description: The Astrophotographer’s Journal is a portable notebook created for the purpose of recording observations, cataloging photographs, and writing down the wonderful memories created by this hobby. This book contains more than 200 pages to memorialize your stargazing and imaging sessions, as well as a useful chart on the last pages to index exciting or important notes. Read back on the logs to see how much progress you have made through the months, the problems you overcame, and the notes taken to improve in the future. Just as the pioneers of astronomy did in their time, look up and take notes of your observations as you are the author of this star-filled journey.
Description: The Constellations Handbook is a logical guide to learning the 88 constellations. Learning the constellations is difficult. Remembering them is even harder. Have you ever wanted to look up to the night sky, name any pattern of stars and be able to tell their stories? This book groups the constellations in a logical order so that the reader can easily learn them by their origin, and see how their stories interact with one another as a group. The last pages of this book include an index of all 88 constellations, each with a slot where you can write your own personal tips and tricks in order to memorize them with ease. The Constellations Handbook is not just another guide listing all the constellations from A to Z and their location, it is the perfect companion for stargazing and a learning journey through the ages.