Canis Major - Wide field Astrophotography of the Constellation of the dog


Canis Major is one of the most recognizable constellations in the night sky, and is home to the brightest star of all: Sirius!

Sirius is also known as "The Dog Star" as it makes up the area just below the head of the dog-shaped constellation.


This is the first light with our new DSLR camera: The Canon Ra! We are very excited to now have this camera which will help us capture much better wide field images of the night sky. As you can see below, several HA regions really pop out throughout the Winter Milky Way band!


Just under 3 hours on Canis Major with a Canon Ra


GEAR USED:

Camera: Canon Ra

Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens

Mount: Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro

Processing: Pixinsight

ACQUISITION DETAILS:

Total Exposure Time: 2.9 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 2 minutes

Calibrated with 15 Darks and 15 Bias

ISO: 3200


I imaged the constellation from a Bortle 3 zone, about one hour away south of Las Vegas. I decided to track the sky using the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Pro tracker and take 2 minute exposures. This was my first time with this camera so I wasn't really sure what the best settings for the ISO would be but I chose 3200. I usually use ISO 800-1600 on my other camera, but the Ra can handle higher ISO without necessarily adding too much noise so I decided to try that.


I used the "Nifty-Fifty" lens from Canon, which is 50mm f/1.8. I brought the aperture down to f/4 to avoid having coma on the edges. In the end, I still had some noticeable coma but cropped it out from the image.The awesome thing about using a full frame camera is that the constellation not only fits nice in there, but there is also a lot of interesting areas visible all around! For example, I would not have been able to include that much of the Milky Way band is using my cropped sensor Canon 7D Mark II!



The constellation Canis Major annotated with Sirius and Messier 41




How to find Canis Major?

Canis Major is visible during the cold Winter months. It is one of the easiest constellations to point out for two main reasons:

It directly follows the most popular and easily recognizable constellation: Orion

It is home to the brightest star in the entire night sky: Sirius


Once you have located the constellation, you should have no problem making up the dog shape. Try to picture a big dog following Orion the hunter! (You can also imagine a dog chasing after a hare (Lepus) but that's a little more difficult 😄)


The Myth

There are many variations of myth around Canis Major, so we'll just pick our favorite, and the one that makes the most sense when reading about our other constellation images on this website.


We'll once again go with the Greek Mythology. Canis Major represents one of Orion's dogs, helping the hunter by chasing after a hare (represented by the constellation Lepus). Canis Major is also known to be helping Orion fight the bull, Taurus.


Canis Major and Lepus - Drawings seen in "Urania's Mirror"


A smaller constellation, Canis Minor, can be seen following Canis Major. Canis Minor is known to represent Orion's second hunting dog, although it seems this was mostly known in the Roman world as the Greek mythology does not mention that second dog.



If you are interested in learning about the 88 constellations, make sure to take a look at our book! It has awesome reviews on Amazon and was written to make learning the constellations as easy as possible.


You can find the Physical version on Amazon and the digital version on Simple Goods.





What deep sky objects are located in Canis Major?

A few notable deep sky objects can be found in Canis Major. The Seagull Nebula, although visible in our image at the very top, is not listed below but it located at the border of Canis Major and Monoceros.


The most popular one among amateur astrophotographers is Thor's Helmet (NGC 2359), a bright emission nebula full of Oxygen III an Hydrogen Alpha gas.


This is one of the few deep sky objects that actually has much more Oxygen III than HA gas! This is a great bi-color target that looks like... Thor's Helmet!




An open cluster from the Messier catalog can also be found in the constellation, M41. It is not often captured but it is a definitely a beautiful object.

This object is extremely close to Sirius so depending on the telescope used, you might have some extreme light reflection if Sirius is just on the edge of your frame (you know, being the brightest star ever and all). Make sure to take some test shots before launching your series of images!



Lastly, Canis Major is home to the closest galaxy to our Milky Way, the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, discovered in 2003!


This is not the type of target you'll want to point your telescope at, as it really is not possible to image, but it is nice to know that the closest galaxy to us lies in the Canis Major constellation!





Nightscape version of Canis Major

I stopped imaging the constellation when it started to become low and overlapped by the surrounding trees. When this happened, I turned off the sky tracker and re-leveled the camera so that the foreground was natural. I then took a quick image of it and added it to the sky image using Photoshop. I am terrible at using Photoshop so it is not perfect, but I believe it looks great!




Final Thoughts

We are very happy with this image of the Canis Major constellation and surroundings! Although not planned, it is great to have the Seagull Nebula included just barely inside the frame. We hope to capture many more constellations using the Canon Ra wide field in the coming months!


Have you imaged the Canis Major constellation? Add your image in the comments section below so everyone can see!


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Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter





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