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Astrophotography and light pollution

Does light pollution affect astrophotography? Is it possible to photograph galaxies, nebulae or star clusters with our telescope also from the backyard with light pollution but using narrowband filters? Discover the result of our test comparing the image of a nebula recorded with the same telescope and the same exposition time but from a place with low light pollution and from an area near the city center.

We choose to record a picture of the Pelican Nebula (IC 5070) in Cygnus, using a Baader Planetarium 7nm H-Alpha filter, with 600 seconds of exposition time and binning 2x2. The picture has been recorded with our Celestron EdgeHD 925 telescope on Avalon-Instruments M-Uno mount with ATIK 16200 monochrome CCD camera, everything controlled by the EAGLE.

 

 

We selected the first location with low light pollution in the first mountain above the italian Po Valley, at a height of 700 meters above sea level). We measured the SQM value (Sky Quality Meter) and we god a good value of 20.8.

 

Astrophotography and light pollution: our telescope under the sky with low light pollution Astrophotography and light pollution: our telescope under the sky with low light pollution

 

Then we moved the telescope in a site in the Po Valley, close to our city of Pordenone, with a high level of light pollution. Here we recorded an SQM value of  19.4.

 

Astrophotography and light pollution: our telescope under the sky with high light pollution Astrophotography and light pollution: our telescope under the sky with high light pollution

 

After recording both pictures (with the same exposition time and settings), we applied the same histogram stretch to better highlight the nebula and superimposed the images, generating the result you can see below:

 

Astrophotography and light pollution: results comparison Astrophotography and light pollution: results comparison

 

You can easily see how the image recorded from the low light pollution site shows better contrast and visibility of the weaker details. At the end, we decided to record 10 images of 10 minutes each (obviously from the site with low light pollution!) and we stacked them, obtaining the image you can see below.

 

Astrophotography and light pollution: Pelican Nebula picture, stack of 10 pictures, 600 seconds each Astrophotography and light pollution: Pelican Nebula picture, stack of 10 pictures, 600 seconds each