Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Welcome to December! Let's keep our monthly series of targets going with five new astrophotography objects you can capture this month!
Below you will find 5 deep sky objects that are at their highest elevation in December. If you don't see a popular object listed below, don't worry! It is most likely featured in a different month as we are doing this guide for every month of the year and are making sure we avoid duplicates.
In order to make sure you find some inspiration no matter your skill level, we will go over three easy objects and will add two more difficult targets for the more experienced amateur astrophotographers at the end.
Make sure to watch our video guide on YouTube for more information and a bit of fun!
Want more inspiration for Fall targets? Read our full guide about the 15 best Winter Astrophotography targets!
5 December Astrophotography targets:
M1 - The Crab Nebula
NGC 2264 - The Christmas Tree Cluster & Cone Nebula
LDN 1622 - The Boogeyman Nebula
IC 2118 - The Witch Head Nebula
The first deep sky object on this list is going to be the very first entry in Messier's catalog: The Crab Nebula!
Messier 1 is a supernova remnant in the constellation Taurus. It is not too far from the famous Pleiades star cluster (Messier 45).
The Crab Nebula is a small object, but it is very bright and a relatively easy target for beginner astrophotographers. It may appear a little too small if you own a wide field refractor telescope, but is perfect for people using an instrument with a focal length of 600mm or more. We captured this object with our very first telescope, the Orion 8" Astrograph reflector which has a focal length of 800mm. Click on the image for more information.
NGC 2264 refers to two popular objects: The Christmas Tree cluster and the Cone Nebula. The Christmas Tree cluster is a loose open cluster of stars that seems to take the shape of a Christmas Tree. The Cone Nebula sits at the top of the tree and reminds the viewer of the ornament you place at the top of your own Christmas tree. 🎄
NGC 2264 is located in the constellation Monoceros, which follows Orion in the Winter skies. It is very close to another famous Winter object: The Rosette Nebula.
If you are up for the challenge, try to image the Christmas Tree cluster and Cone Nebula just in time for Christmas! You may have to stay up late to get enough exposure time on it, but your social media followers will for sure appreciate such a festive image from you when they wake up on Christmas Day!
Barnard's Loop is going to be your new favorite wide field target this Winter!
Located in Orion, Barnard's Loop is a huge emission nebula complex that contains many of the most popular Winter sky objects, such as the Orion Nebula, the Horsehead Nebula, the Witch Head Nebula, and more!
You cannot image Barnards Loop with a telescope, and will need a DSLR camera with a lens of about 50mm. You can see the one we used, along with lots of other information, by clicking on the image below.
Barnard's Loop has a lot of Hydrogen Alpha gas, so the use of an HA filter is definitely recommended if you are imaging with an unmodified DSLR camera.
LDN 1622 is a dark nebula located in the constellation Orion. Although the nebula itself is made up of dark dust, it lies in front of an incredible amount of Hydrogen Alpha gas, making it an impressive target to photograph.
LDN 1622 is often called the Boogeyman Nebula. Just like the Christmas Tree cluster and Cone Nebula, LDN 1622 is a great target to image during the festivities... well, maybe try to capture it for Halloween instead of Christmas.
Just like any other dark nebula, the Boogeyman Nebula is not an easy target and requires long hours of exposure to really look impressive.
LDN 1622 by Anne's Astronomy News
Another dark nebula for December is IC 2118, or the Witch Head Nebula! This is probably the least difficult of all dark nebulae to photograph, as it reflects more light than most others.
The Witch Head Nebula is very large, and so is best captured using a small wide field telescope. It is located in the constellation Eridanus, just on the edge of Orion. You most likely will be able to fit Rigel, the 7th brightest star in the sky, in the same frame. In our image below, Rigel was just outside of the edge and so you can see its insane reflection coming into the image.
Try spending as much time as possible on this object, from a dark site if you can. It is really difficult to bring out the dark gases during processing and more data always helps!
And that's it!
We hope this list will help you pick a target to photograph tonight. If you do image one of these beautiful objects, make sure to show us your results in the comments section!
You can read our pick for the TOP 15 Winter Astrophotography Targets if you want to see more great objects for this season.
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, cataloguing 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.