Leo Triplet at the start of galaxy season

With the beginning of March already gone and warmer weather on the horizon, it can only mean one thing. The galaxies are finally starting to make their way up at night. Unfortunately for me, trees in my backyard block most of the galaxies in early galaxy season until the very late hours of the night but I do get some shots before then.

Around 10 pm this time of year the Leo Triplet makes its way over my roof line and I can shoot that most of the night from there. Last night I was able to shoot it from 10 pm until I was nearly passed out at 3 am and spent two full days processing it. The issue is that I haven’t bought any broadband filters so I shoot galaxies totally unfiltered from the backyard a little outside Philadelphia. With 60 second exposures my mean value as read by N.I.N.A. is around 4500 after midnight and around 6300 before midnight while the triplet rises above the city. Many people wouldn’t even think to shoot under these conditions and just say it’s not possible to get a good image but I disagree. Not only did I shoot them at 600mm which is pretty wide field for galaxy season but I shot them with a Canon T3i, unfiltered, with only a visual polar alignment done. All of this combined and some of you veteran imagers may already be cringing in your chair. Understandable, but I’m going to keep doing it anyway, mostly because it’s the gear I have and the circumstances I’m cursed with. Anyway, after a 2x drizzle in deep sky stacker, a heavy crop, 14 hours of total editing and over 100GB of space eaten up while Pixinsight and Photoshop were open, I finally got an image I was at least comfortable sharing. All things considered I think it came out great and I’m hoping to get more data over the next few months to add to it. All of my gear and acquisition details are posted below if you’re curious. I hope this inspires some of the more budget oriented and newer imagers to take a crack at shooting some of, in my opinion, the best the night sky has to offer.

Gear details

  • Telescope OTA: High Point 6″ imaging newtonian @ F4
  • Camera: Modified Canon T3i (600D)
  • Mount: Celestron AVX
  • Guide camera & scope: ZWO ASI120MM-S with the Orion 50MM Mini Guide Scope


  • Light: 164 light frames of 60 and 120 second exposures totally 3 hours 7 minutes
  • Flat: 101 flats
  • Bias: 50 bias
  • Dark flats: 50 dark flats
  • Darks: none, it was 3 am, give me a break


  • Acquisition done by N.I.N.A.
  • Processing in Pixinsight and Photoshop CC


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