Nebula are making their way back into the sky, so it must be May! With summer around the corner, there's no time like the present to capture the last targets of spring. If you don't have a clue what to photograph tonight, we've got some ideas sure to help you out. See our list below!
Further below you will see 5 deep sky objects that are at their highest elevation in May. There are a good few to choose from and if you don't see one that you hope to see, it's probably in another of our special monthly series. We have a list for every month of the year and want to avoid duplicates.
No matter your skill level, you'll find a list of ideas that work for you. On our list are three beginner astrophotography targets and two advanced targets.
Watch our video guide on YouTube
5 May astrophotography targets:
NGC 5128 - Centaurus A
NGC 6543 - The Cat's Eye Nebula
NGC 6946 - The Fireworks Galaxy
The Iris Nebula is a beautiful reflection nebula with a bright core. The young star located in the center of the object reflects light against dark interstellar gas, making NGC 7023 both bright blue and dark at the same time.
This is an easy nebula overall however it can be difficult to get a great image of it. The challenging part lies in the processing part. The Iris Nebula is very bright at its center but is surrounded by dark gas that is very difficult to bring out. Processing it will be a challenge of balancing the dark with the light, and without enhancing the noise.
Make sure to click on the image below to see our full post with tips about photographing this object.
NGC 5128 - Centaurus A
This one is mostly for southern astrophotographers, but you may be able to capture it from your location if you don't above a certain latitude. We were able to get raw data on this target from a telescope in Chile, operated by Matt Dieterich (thanks!).
This was the very first southern hemisphere object we ever processed and it turned out nice! The details in the core are particularly beautiful.
Messier 92 is one of the most impressive globular clusters in the Messier catalog.
M92 is located close to another famous Messier object, probably the most popular globular cluster in the northern hemisphere: Messier 13, also known as the Great Hercules Cluster.
M92 can easily be seen with the naked eye and with binoculars. It is very simple to photograph and you should be able to get a great picture of it in just one or two hours depending on how much light pollution you are under.
Messier 92 by NASA
Located in Draco, NGC 6543 is a very small but bright planetary nebula that is very difficult to get right. Nicknamed the "Cat's Eye Nebula", NGC 6543 has a very bright core, where a hot white star can be seen lighting up the entire object. The gas around the star is not difficult to capture in photographs, but the details will be difficult to bring out.
Not visible in the picture below, is a gigantic envelope of gas that expels into space all around the object. The only way to see this gas is by taking very long exposures, meaning the core of the nebula will be totally blown out. This object is very difficult to capture and process because it requires both short and long exposures and a lot of patience.
NGC 6543 by NASA
Also known as the Fireworks Galaxy, NGC 6946 is another difficult target for the month of May.
Located in between Cepheus and Cygnus, the Fireworks Galaxy has a small core compared to most other face-on galaxies visible from Earth. Its spiral arms have nice features including several Hydrogen-Alpha regions.
The main reason why NGC 6946 is a difficult target is that it lies behind thick interstellar clouds of dust. This makes the object look a little fuzzy and bringing out the details can be difficult.
NGC 6946 by the Liverpool Telescope and Göran Nilsson
Those were our May astrophotography targets, a different take on spring if you are looking for off-the-beaten-path objects to photograph. Don't forget to come back to this page to cross off these objects like a checklist!
If you've captured these objects already, then check out our list of the 15 best summer astrophotography targets to prepare for the next season! You can also find this season's targets below or see all seasons by checking out our seasonal lists.
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