Updated: Oct 28, 2019

M11, the Wild Duck Cluster, got its name because the brightest stars in the cluster seem to form a triangle resembling a flock of ducks flying.

It is one of the most compact and star-rich clusters out there, with about 2,900 stars.

The image on the right is what you can expect when photographing the Wild Duck with an 8” telescope. The exposure time was just 2 hours. Notice that you can see dark lanes in several spots around the cluster.

Make sure your tracking and guiding are perfect for this target, as with any cluster, or you will end up with a blurry mess.


Camera: Canon 7D Mk II

Telescope: Orion 8" Astrograph f/3.9

Mount: Atlas EQ-G motorized Mount

Coma: Baader MPCC Coma Corrector MkIII

Guiding: Starshoot Autoguider - 50mm Guide Scope

Processing: Pixinsight


Total Exposure Time: 2.5 hours

Exposure Time per frame: 6 minutes

25 lights - 15 Darks - 15 Bias

ISO: 400

Locating the Wild Duck Cluster

At a distance of 6,200 light-years, Messier 11 is the farthest open cluster in the Messier catalog that can be seen with the naked eye.

The Wild Duck cluster is also a good target with binoculars and will appear as a bright but fuzzy diamond. You might be able to distinguish the triangle, or V-shape of the cluster through a telescope.

M11 is located in the constellation of Scutum, not too far from another Messier cluster, M26. If you are having trouble finding Scutum, you can also spot the Wild Duck Cluster above the Teapot asterism from the Sagittarius constellation.

  • One of the most populated clusters known

  • About 250 million years old

  • Discovered in 1733

Processing of M11

Processing M11 is not very difficult. You really need to keep your focus on those hundreds of stars so that you don't over-process them. Also make sure to keep the space behind contrasted compared to the cluster, but not too dark or it will look unrealistic.

One mistake this target taught us:

Do NOT take very long exposures (we did 6 minutes for each photo) on clusters, the stars are a little bit too exposed and would have been more neat at 3 minutes or even under.

Final Thoughts

Messier 11 is a good star cluster to photograph for any amateur astrophotographer. It is not the most impressive, but if you are new to clusters, we recommend you try it before attempting bigger/busier ones such as M13.

Milky Way photographed while our telescope was busy imaging M11

Clear Skies,

Galactic Hunter

Part of: 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!

#astronomy #astrophotography #messiercatalog #messier #galaxy #nebula #cluster #stars #space #galactichunter #nevada #lasvegas #canon #orion #telescope #m11 #wildduck #wildduckcluster #cluster

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