I got my first telescope when I was 10 years old. I still have a picture of me with my telescope on Christmas day in 1968. As you can imagine, I had a smile a mile wide on that day. Equally important, I also got my first camera about the same time. It was a Kodak Instamatic and, if memory serves me correctly, it used a film cartridge and a flash cube.

Finally, more than 50 years later, I’ve managed to bring these two passions together into the art, science, and technology of 21st century amateur astrophotography. Yes, I’m a slow learner, but what I lack in speed I make up for in determination.

Today I wanted to share my first decent astrophotograph. At least I consider it decent. If you’re familiar with this type of photography, you might say that I still have more work ahead of me and you’d be right. If you’re not familiar with this type of photography, you might ask, what the heck am I looking at, Steve? Well, this object is known as the Rosette Nebula, and it is located more than 5000 light years from us near the constellation of Orion. It is a large object from our perspective, roughly 4 times the size of a full moon. So, you can imagine a picture of the full moon fitting easily inside the middle of the Rosette. 

To obtain this image, I ran my camera for almost 24 hours collecting dozens of images over several nights recently on my driveway. It’s a monochrome image because I used a filter that only transmits a narrow band of light from the emission of light from oxygen atoms in the interstellar medium. The filter greatly reduces background light due to high levels of light pollution here in Knoxville. I also used a second camera to correct errors as my telescope mount tracks the rotation of the celestial sphere due to the spinning earth. All of this is needed to collect enough 5000-year-old photons to make an image. How cool is that?

I fell in love with the Rosette Nebula when I first saw a high-quality image created by an astroimaging expert, Kevin. You should check out his amazing images. You’ll fall in love too. In future, I’ll use different filters so I can create a color version of the Rosette. For now, enjoy the B&W version!

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