M56 - 1 hour from the backyard with no filter and no calibration frames

Messier 56 is a globular cluster in Lyra. It is a rarely photographed object located not far from the famous Ring Nebula (M57).

Object Designation: M56

Constellation: Lyra

Object Type: Globular Cluster

Distance: 32,900 light-years away

Magnitude: 8.3

Discovered in: 1779

Tonight is my first time using the SVX130 with the QHY600C camera.

This is more of a test than a true first light. The goal was to try out the camera without any light pollution filter (despite our insanely light polluted backyard at Bortle 9) and to only spend one hour on a target. I also did not use any dark or flat frame and only spent one hour in total on this target.

In case you didn't know, we are currently using this telescope seen on the right: the Stellarvue SVX130 that our friend Mark is lending us until next year, along with his camera, the incredible QHY600C. We cannot thank Mark enough for trusting us with this equipment and hope to create wonderful images with it!

I picked M56 at random. I wanted an easy object to image and know that most globular clusters in the Messier catalog are pretty bright and do not have anything tricky about them.

Messier 56 by the Hubble Space Telescope

Messier 56 is rarely photographed, but it is a nice globular cluster not far from the popular Ring Nebula (M57).

The object is traveling through the Milky Way in a retrograde orbit, which means it is going in the opposite direction as the spiral arms of our galaxy.

In photographs, M56 appears mostly white with some hints of yellows. It also has a few blue stars. The core is dense but many individual stars can be resolved.

Below is our own image. Once again it is only one hour of exposure, from the city, without a filter, and with no calibration frames!

Messier 56 from our Bortle 9 backyard without a filter


Camera: QHY600C

Telescope: Stellarvue SVX130

Mount: Paramount MyT

Guiding: ZWO ASI 290MM Mini

Accessories: Moonlite Nightcrawler focuser

Processing: PixInsight


Total Exposure Time: 1 hour

Exposure Time per frame: 30 seconds

Filters: N/A

Gain: 26

How to find Messier 56?

Messier 56 can be seen with the naked eye from dark locations but it is very difficult to find. Only keen observers will be able to spot it. It is also not easy to see with binoculars because of its size.

M56 rises very high in the sky and stays visible for several months starting in Summer. It lies 32,900 light-years away from Earth.

The globular cluster is, besides M57, the only Messier object in the constellation Lyra. To find it, look for the bright star Vega, then travel towards the opposite side of the constellation in a straight line until stumbling on your target.

Processing Messier 56

Processing the globular cluster M56 was pretty straight forward. I did not spend more than thirty minutes on it and went through my usual steps very quickly. I did not really expect it to turn out good so I honestly did not care about the image when I was processing it.

In the end, I decided to keep the image and tweaked the shadows and highlights on Lightroom a little bit. I also used a mask to increase the crispness in the actual cluster only.

Below is a single shot of thirty seconds on M56.

A single 30 second shot of M56

I went through our basic processing workflow to process this object as it is a simple cluster. But if you are interested in learning how I process all our more difficult images, you can download a full PDF "follow along" file that contains 77 pages, a full 1 hour and 45 minutes walkthrough tutorial video, our custom presets and even raw data HERE.

Final Thoughts

Messier 56 is an "okay" globular cluster. It is very easy to photograph, as you can see even from the worst light polluted areas, without a filter, or calibration frames, and with just one hour of exposure. I'd like to revisit this target in the future under better conditions and compare the two results!

We chose not to make this image available as a print because it does not meet our quality standards, but check out the prints we have for other images HERE!

Have you captured Messier 56? Attach your image in the comments and let us know your acquisition details!

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to stay up to date with our work!

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter


The Astrophotographer's Guidebook

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!

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The Constellations Handbook

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