The Pleiades, a winter classic

Dear friends of The Lonely Photon,

Here’s another recent work I’m enormously proud of: the Pleiades!

A little background.

The Pleiades is an extremely popular target among astrophotographers, one of those that can seriously push you deep into the hobby. So, naturally, when I started my journey into astrophotography two years ago, I had very high hopes for this target.

Pretty soon, however, my hopes clashed with reality. Imaging the star cluster is easy enough, as it is very bright and can be easily seen with the naked eye, even from light polluted cities; what’s way more challenging is pulling out all the surrounding dust, which can be quite elusive, particularly from the Bortle 8 sky I live (and photograph) under.

To get that faint nebulosity and dust you need several hours of data integration, good weather and good seeing on moonless nights, and of course dark skies; something quite rare where I live. Against any odds, however, February 2023 presented me with an opportunity: two clear nights just around the new Moon. I couldn’t believe it.

Now, I had my moonless nights to get the necessary integration, but there was nothing I could do about the dark skies. To mitigate that I used a light pollution filter, the Optolong L-Pro, but this had previously given me mixed results, so I wasn’t too optimistic. It was only when I went to process the data that I found out: I had done it, I finally managed to pull out the dust and nebulosity that surrounds the Pleiades. Happiness does exist!

The Pleiades

In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of the Titan god Atlas who rebelled against Zeus and was thus sentenced to hold up the heavens on his shoulders. Moved by compassion, however, Zeus allowed the seven daughters a place in the sky so they could stay close to their father. How romantic is that?

Going back to astronomy, the Pleiades is an open cluster (a group of stars formed from the same cloud of gas and dust) located approx. 440 light years from Earth, in the constellation Taurus. The cluster contains over three thousand stars (mostly hot B-type stars) although only the seven largest stars are visible to the naked eye due to the effects of light pollution. For this reason, the cluster is also called “the Seven Sisters”.

Read the full article: The Pleiades

The blue nebulosity is not directly associated to the star cluster, but it rather seems that the latter is passing through a particularly dusty region that reflects the light from the stars. It’s what astronomers call a reflection nebula.

I hope you enjoyed it, stay tuned for more!

Clear skies!